An electronic dialogue with Dell

I just got off a most amusing press conference call with Dell announcing with much fanfare its new ethics policy for the blog world in association with WOMMA (see the two posts below).

I sensed that the reporters on the call found it as curious as I did that Dell thinks this is new and worthy of a big announcement. Isn’t it always a company’s policy, in any interaction — by blog, telephone, or letter — to be open and honest?

They try to argue that blogs are new and they need to teach employees how to be ethical in their interaction with them. Said the leader of WOMMA: “We’re making it easy to be ethical.”

I think my mother made that easy when she told me not to lie. And she didn’t belong to any Association of Ethical Moms.

In fact, I think it’s possibly dangerous to put up this elaborate construct of policies and guidelines and toolkits and announcements. The message to employees should be as simple as this:

Tell the truth.

Now I didn’t want to drag Dell through glass over my blog encounters with them and their ad agency. But on the call, I did ask — twice — what they have learned from their interaction with blogs, reminding them of what Dwight Silverman learned when they told him their policy toward blogs was “look, don’t touch.” I saw after the call that on the Dell blog, in a post that went up at that moment, Lionel Menchaca acknowledged that past: “Dell Hell happened just over year ago and while we’re pleased with some of the progress we’ve made so far, we know we’ve just scratched the surface.” Good on him.

On the call, though, the executives would not acknowledge that past or any lessons in any way. They kept insisting that this announcement was “not reactive but proactive” and that they were taking a “proactive leadership position.” (I hate that corporatespeak.) And that’s too bad, because a moment of honesty about Dell’s lessons might be more helpful to other companies than a hundred bullets on an ethics policy.

I also asked, by the way, about employees blogging and they said that employees could blog now and, in response to the question, they said that executives will blog, including Michael Dell. I look forward to linking to him.

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  • Forgive my cynicism, but I wonder how loudly Jeff yells “tell the truth” at the NYT when he is taking their consulting fees?

    It’s one thing to “lie” about a laptop, but quite another to lie about everything else under the sun.

    Oops. I forgot the NYT lies about solar warming as well.

  • I have never had good dealings with Dell on any level from my desktop to my laptop and more. I guess what I am saying is I don’t buy it and it’s not new news. Great article!

  • Nick

    Is this Off Topic? Wouldn’t it be nice if the US Government did abide by the Sarbanes–Oxley Act of 2002 and wrote a well intentioned “Code of Ethics” for it’s employees, contractors and associates?

  • Anna Haynes

    > executives would not acknowledge that past or any lessons in any way.

    How did that make you feel? Did it increase or decrease your faith in their “we’ll be ethical now” message?

  • Jeff:

    In a lot of ways, you’re right—the basics are pretty easy in theory. Be transparent. Tell the truth. Discuss negative topics in a meaningful way. Admit your mistakes, and learn from them publicly. For companies of any size, some of these things don’t come naturally. In practice, it becomes even more difficult when there’s a legion of folks ready to dissect and potentially criticize every word.

    Are these new standards a change for the better? Yes, they are. Is it a good thing for consumers that more companies and their employees want to proceed down this path? Of course. If we want more of our employees to enter more conversations, we want them to do it the right way. Because some of those basics don’t come naturally, an education process has to take place. These guidelines serve as part of that process.


    Lionel Menchaca
    Digital Media Manager, Direct2Dell

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  • I’m sure this blog posting is not viral marketing for the forthcoming DELL INC blogs, because…

    1. Jeff’s mom taught him not to lie
    2. Jeff wonders why the Dell announcement is so important, and then writes a lot about it.
    3. Comments in his blog, written by other people I don’t know, say he has criticised Dell in the past
    4. he looks forward to linking to Michael Dell when the Dell corporate blogs DO appear.
    5. Jeff heard the Dell corporate line in the press conference call, but he asked some tough questions.
    6. He followed up on those questions by digging up some more facts on the story.

  • Mark

    I just got off the phone with Dell. About two hours of confusion. A few years ago, my retired mom decided that she would buy my family a couple of computers from Dell with her good credit. Enter headaches. The PC sits with a blue screen under a desk no longer used and the notebook is currently lost in another state after Dell shipped it to the wrong address after its 4th major repair since it was purchased.

    I am currently waiting for a return phone call from the shipping company to tell me if Dell has faxed them an approval letter to ship my notebook to the correct address – the same address they picked it up from! I was supposed to have this machine days ago, but now am being told it might be a few more days!

    I could go on and on about all the continued nightmare with Dell over the last few years, climaxing with them lying to me on the phone today, but I just don’t have the energy at the moment.

    I am just wishing that my mom wasn’t still paying for junk computers, or that Dell would make things right.

    But they never will.