Pointing out how poorly you pay your own employees is a crisis management faux pas.

So, you set out to create a website, accessible to the public, aimed at helping your employees budget. You have hopes of helping them out, but let’s be real here, you’re also looking to grab you some good PR in the process. Once you get started, however, you realize that there is no way a typical employee at your organization makes enough to live on, even with a second job, and leaving out minor expenses like food, water, and clothing…because those are luxury items, right?

Most of us would scrap the project on the spot, but not McDonald’s! The company, which has already run into a few stumbling blocks while getting acquainted with how the modern web works, must not have thought it was a problem because they went live. As could be expected, the company took a beating in the media, largely as result of the buzz generated following video, from the activists at Low Pay is Not Okay:

In a market where consumers are more aware than ever of the ethics behind their favorite brands, coming across as a cold, callous company is a major crisis management faux pas. While obviously it’s better to not BE that cold, callous company, the reality is that some organizations are solely focused on making as much money as possible. If that’s your deal, be realistic and try not to point it out to the public in a glaringly obvious manner.

There really is no crisis management move that would make this situation better for McDonald’s, and since its leadership clearly has no plans to raise the wages of its employees, our recommendation would be that in the future at least they keep anything that directly points out how poorly their employees are treated away from a publicly accessible site.

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For more resources, see the Free Management Library topic: Crisis Management
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[Co-authored with Erik Bernstein.]