On television, she’s one of the warmest, happiest, and most magnetic daytime talk show hosts; but, some staff have alleged, that, behind the scenes, Ellen DeGeneres allowed a “toxic” working environment to grow.
The allegations came from a BuzzFeed article in which at least one current and several former employees discussed issues from racial insensitivity to being fired for taking medical leave. The bulk of these complaints were directed at senior producers and managers, but former employees said, since it’s her name on the program, Ellen needed to take responsibility.
As a result of these alleUrban Legends Busted: Sophia Stewartgations, Warner Brothers studio investigated complaints, concluding that there were “some flaws in the show’s daily management.” About the investigation, communications representatives at WarnerMedia said: “(We) interviewed dozens of current and former employees about the environment at (the show) … Though not all of the allegations were corroborated, we are disappointed that the primary findings of the investigation indicated some deficiencies related to the show’s day-to-day management.”
Now, Ellen is publicly responding to these allegations in an open letter to her team which reads, in part: “On day one of our show, I told everyone in our first meeting that (the show) would be a place of happiness… No one would raise their voice, and everyone would be treated with respect… Something changed, and for that, I’m sorry…”
DeGeneres added that she feels “deep compassion” for anyone who believes they have been “treated unfairly or disregarded” and that she understands how that feels, being someone who is “judged for who I am” as an openly gay celebrity. Having addressed the emotional quotient of the issue, Ellen talked about the logistical challenges:
“As we’ve grown, I’ve not been able to stay on top of everything and relied on others to do their jobs as they knew I’d want them done… Clearly some didn’t. that will change, and I’m committed to ensuring this does not happen again…” She added that this is an opportunity to “learn and grow.”
In addition to Ellen’s public statements, WarnerMedia reps said “steps are being taken to make staffing changes and implement other (actions)…” with the intention of addressing complaints that were corroborated.
From a PR perspective, this communication was handled well. Complaints were made, a serious investigation was undertaken, publicly. The person at the top took public responsibility, apologized and suggested this gave her an opportunity to grow. Meanwhile, logistically, management is shaking up the team to better address employee concerns.
All in all, the messaging is on point. And, if leadership follows through, this could be a net PR win for Ellen. Fans understand that no one is perfect. Her efforts to publicly take responsibility, admit mistakes, even those not her own, and make improvements, set her up to be a positive example of someone who, when called to account, practices what she preaches.