Crisis Management by Apology

Crisis Management by Apology

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The dissociation occurs, then, when the company is able to locate guilt, not in the company as a company, but instead in the actions of a few individuals, thus repairing the company’s social persona. Such was the strategy taken by the Toshiba Corporation when news broke in 1987 that the company had sold top-secret milling equipment to the then Soviet Union (Hearit, 1994). To deal with the problem of its guilt, the company bifurcated itself, claiming that it was not the Toshiba Corporation that had sold the milling equipment but rather its subsidiary, the Toshiba Machine Company, that made the illegal sale (Hearit, 1994).

Perhaps no other company in America faces as many lawsuits as Wal-Mart. The statistics are staggering. According to its own data, Wal-Mart was sued 4,851 times in the year 2000—or an average of 13 times a day—for every day of the year (Willing, 2001). ). Historically, the accepted wisdom has been to settle if the cost of litigation was thought to be higher than a proposed settlement amount. Given the staggering quantity of lawsuits, however, Wal-Mart instead has decided to fight rather than pay—even the small ones.

It is a legitimate question as to whether an apology on the part of the perpetrators could be efficacious in the eyes of the victims, survivors, and their families. This point is in many ways akin to what Farrell and Goodnight (1981) concluded in their analysis of the root metaphors surrounding events at Three Mile Island: There exist certain situations in which, unlike the Bitzerian (1968) ideal, rhetoric can never be sufficient enough to account for the wrong; there can be no fitting response.

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