Leslie Ungar, The Inner Brilliance of Electric Impulse, Inc.

Pants On Fire

Leslie’s Articles

What Leggings-Gate Can Teach You

WOW – it started innocently enough. But then again, many battles may start innocently. It’s what happens after the first act when things go awry.

Let’s just say that when you find yourself in a Twitter war, you lose. And let’s add a period to that sentence.

At the least this was a stumble for the airline. At a higher cost, people may choose another airline. The challenge for the public is that there are not many choices to fly these days.

As with many events that become PR disasters, it may not be the actual incident but how it is handled. I have a problem with dress policy that is gender specific. But my thoughts are about crises communication more than gender in-equal policy.

Regardless of whether or not United was right, they handled it wrong. Want to stand out in your company? Know how to handle a crises. EVEN BETTER, handle sticky issues before they become a crises.

3 steps that could have prevented leggings-gate:

  1. Admit it fast. Dig your heels in or admit a wrong doing. It’s your choice. The more you dig in your heels, the harder it is to move forward. Find that sliver with which you can agree that your policy or action had unintended consequences. Admit you were wrong in some aspect. You just can’t move forward until you fall on your sword alittle. Americans don’t like a lot of blood, but you need to bleed alittle.
  2. Be consistent. Your top person and your spokesperson need to speak the same language. The more congruent you are the more you can move forward. The less consistency there is in the message the slower movement will be toward a goal.
  3. Fix it. It’s not that hard. Fixing something becomes hard when we fixate on our righteous stand rather than a solution. At the least let your audience knows that you are taking steps to correct. At the most, have a plan. Then hold yourself accountable because others will.

To me, the United policy is gender discrimination. “Tight fitting”, “ill-fitting”, “professional” are all code words for discrimination against women.

What is tight-fitting for some may not be tight-fitting for others. I am not crazy about a gate person deciding whether or not I can get on a flight, even a comped flight.

I have to endure men’s dirty toe nails, hairy toes, and hairy legs. That is professional? Skinny jeans are tighter than leggings. Will we read about a male being prevented from boarding a flight?

This to me is blatant gender discrimination. It is also a good example of what not to do in crises.