Some time back the great Paul Hebert wrote one of the best pieces in the last few years over on Fistful of Talent, titled, HR Plays Too Much Defense. You should stop what you are doing and read it, or re-read it as the case may be, then come back for a recent and I think perfect example of Paul's ideas played out in the corporate social media space. I'll wait.
Ok, back? I told you Paul's piece was money.
So here's my example of playing offense, or at least not sitting back and playing defense, from one of those classic 'Love them or hate them' organizations, Goldman Sachs.
Of course you'll remember the recent resignation flame-out from former Goldman Sachs employee Greg Smith, who took to the New York Times op-ed page to trash Goldman's culture, draw attention to their bad treatment of clients and customers, and essentially portray the firm as a horrible, horrible place to work, one where a high-minded and formerly optimistic, but now jaded person like himself could no longer be comfortable with.
Well last week Smith sat down with the Times once again, to talk about his soon to be released tell-all memoir 'Why I Left Goldman Sachs'. Turns out that according to the piece in Times last week, the 'tell-all' doesn't really have that much to say, in fact the headline of the piece, 'A Tell-All on Goldman Has Little Worth Telling', paints Smith equal parts greedy, out-of-touch, and disappointed with his personal compensation, as some kind of crusader to protect customers and reveal deficiencies in Goldman's culture.
Goldman, upon seeing the latest Times' piece, issued the below tweet from their official Twitter account:
Man, that's a burn. At least from Goldman's point of view, the Times' provided the initial platform for Smith's enmity and accusations, and now after some time and more details are revealed by Smith via his memoir, essentially has to admit there really isn't much there there. Goldman's swipe at the Times is, at least to my view, a great example of taking the offense, in a way that is snarky but still measured, and one that certainly seems to be in line with their reputation and culture.
Let me be clear about one thing, I am not an apologist for Goldman at all, and their role in the financial crisis of 2008-2009 has been pretty well documented. Next year a former Goldman trader will be tried for civil fraud for his role in the subprime mortgage scandals. Goldman's hands are not at all clean.
But that makes their little dig at the Times even more refreshing I think. It is easy, especially when you might not have the most respected brand, to sit back, to try not to offend, to play by a really restrictive set of rules, but like Paul pointed out in the FOT piece, playing defense all the time is playing not to lose.
Do you want to play to win, whether it is in HR, marketing, recruiting, or social?
Then you have to score some points.
And the Goldman example above reminds us even the 'bad' guys can get over sometimes as well.