Monday, July 15, 2013

Making Matters Worse

Perhaps it results from reading too many balance sheets. But Edward Burkhardt clearly suffers from EDD -- Emotional Deficit Disorder. The head of the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway walked into Lac Megantic last week and blamed someone else for the tragedy:

“It was our employee that was responsible for setting the brakes on the train,” Burkhardt told journalists. “That employee is under investigation and is not working.”

He also suggested that some local firefighters, who were called to put out a fire on the unmanned train, might have unwittingly tampered with the brakes.

Burkhardt's strategy is nothing knew, writes Allan Bonner:

Union Carbide blamed Indian sabotage (never proven) [for the tragedy at Bhopal] and Exxon blamed its ship’s captain (acquitted of a drinking charge). Burkhardt implicated a firefighter who may have “tampered” with the engine and brakes, and within 36 hours blamed his own engineer (suspended without pay). But Burkhardt admitted that his company had not conducted a full investigation, and thus had little way of knowing. Public sympathy is with the engineer. 

It seems that, if you're at the top these days, you take credit for profits, but you blame someone else for the societal damage your enterprise has caused. Mr. Burkhardt may know how to read a balance sheet. Bu he hasn't got a clue when it comes to handling a crisis. Bonner writes:

One of a senior manager’s jobs is to ensure there’s a good crisis plan and test it. Had Burkhardt done this, he could have arrived quietly in a controlled school gym or church basement with a francophone moderator and technical expert to brief reporters competently. He didn’t need to look nervous, ill-informed, self-centred or combative.

Once again, the best and the brightest have proved that they are neither. They only know how to make matters worse.


Lorne said...

I suspect, Owen, that in the 'corrupted currents of this world,' there will always be underlings to take the blame for the high and mighty.

Owen Gray said...

The underlings are only tolerated, Lorne, so long as they are willing to take a bullet for the boss.

Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

Evan as an English speaking Canadian
I am deeply offended that this American Corporation head would show up deep in Quebec without any way of communicating en fran├žais. This is contemptuous of the nature of Canadian Society and the people of this community. I guess he is just another American ignorant of Canada.

Besides this he did almost everything wrong to be an effective communicator.

Owen Gray said...

He clearly has no feel for the people in the region, Philip. In fact, he seems to have no feel for people at all.

bcwaterboy said...

It becomes more obvious everyday that as employees, people are an expendable commodity to be exploited and tossed aside if it's inconvenient. It's astounding how certain members of society, particularly the CEO class and political masters, have managed to elevate themselves to a different level, and very rarely be taken down. This guy is no different than the Royal Bank's Gordon Nixon, who failed miserably when caught exploiting people as a commodity.

Owen Gray said...

There was a time when workplace disasters would at least cause the managerial class embarrassment, waterboy.

Now they simply say, "Don't blame me."