Mike Richards, Jeopardy host du jour

The best crisis management plan? Avoid jeopardy in the first place

  • News
  • September 13, 2021

Rather than write a bland blog to showcase how THE LIST recently devoted an entire article to my takeaways on Mike Richards – who put his career in jeopardy by mistreating people on the way to becoming the shortest-tenured host in Jeopardy history – I thought I’d dig much closer to the root of the matter and suggest we collectively, stop the presses, just be more decent.

I know that seems pollyannish, especially coming from a PR and crisis management guy who spent three decades as a journalist.  But this all reminds me a little too much about how we complain, predictably and without affecting change, about assault weapons after every mass shooting. Telling awful people to at least behave themselves in professional settings is like offering extra breath mints to an out-of-control alcoholic.

The Mike Richards case is a metaphor for our collective failure to truly become the kind of people we all want to be seen as the moment the TV lights turn on.

Think about it.

Why does it feel like for every person who cries out “#metoo,” a hundred of their co-workers just care about avoiding the furnace-hot wrath of being #metooed?

Does it concern anyone else that our ever-growing stack of bigshots who were pilloried, persecuted, and prosecuted into obscurity is not making us more evolved, more woke, or more decent?

Yes, #Blacklivesmatter, but why are we such terrible people that we need constant reminders?

Why don’t more of us just organically embrace a worldview of equality and decency?

The fix

For starters, stop treating social media like it’s God. No, really, think about it. People use it to pass along messages to the deceased, to receive and dispatch their prayers, to share their hopes, to demonstrate their ignorance, and to confess their sins.

Social media is not God. If anything, it’s the Devil. HR recruiters can and do peruse everything you’ve posted to social media, which makes social media the evil friend who will stab you in the back every time. It’s become not only a portal for the hate that divides us but also a place where underhanded operatives foment anger, unduly influence elections, and topple political regimes if not entire governments. We use social media as an excuse to have fewer phone or in-person conversations, which expands the virtualienation between us (sorry, my word, meaning that as we increasingly connect virtually instead of in person, we become further physically alienated from each other and further from the type of society that talks more and argues less).

And don’t assume that your own, self-modulated filter will reliably prevent your bad personal behaviors from damaging you professionally. You’re only going to get so far in a political or entertainment career or, really, at anything if you can’t help but treat some of the people around you poorly.

In short, the surest way to truly avoid someday becoming a Mike Richards is to do the personal work necessary to ensure that you know how to treat people regardless of where you encounter them. The executive who does not need to struggle to restrain his personal demons in any scenario will blaze the quickest trail to success – especially if their definition of success is to be a truly happy person with great professional and personal relationships.