Part of our ongoing effort to help speechwriters help their CEOs address President-Elect Trump constructively, if publicly at all: the perhaps cautionary tale of IBM chief Ginny Rometty.
She waited a little longer than some of her corner-office counter parts to write an open letter to Trump. In her Nov. 14 letter, she offered a number of ways IBM could contribute to the administration’s economic plans after stating, “I know you are committed to help America’s economy grow in ways that are good for all its people.”
At least one IBM employee, senior content strategist Elizabeth Wood, publicly resigned in response to Rometty’s letter, writing an open letter of her own that asserted that Rometty “offered the backing of IBM’s global workforce in support of [Trump’s] agenda.” This despite IBM’s stated claims that “the future of the company hinges on an inclusive and welcoming culture” that Wood claims is anathema to Trump’s agenda. Wood’s letter got a lot of play in social media, and coverage in many media outlets.
“These two letters highlight the painful balancing act that chief executives and other leaders now face,” concluded Fortune’s Ellen McGirt. “How to work productively with a deeply divisive new government while reaffirming their commitment to the difficult work of maintaining an inclusive culture within their own ecosystems. Their businesses depend on mastering both.”
MY OPINION: The blancing act McGirt refers to may be difficult, but it's only "painful" if it fails. It seems to me that Rometty's letter could have been much improved, and Wood's worries somewhat salved by a explicit acknowledgement of a divided nation an unsettled workforce. Though Rometty did say in her letter, "In the years ahead there will be issues on which we agree, and issues on which we do not," that was probably not enough in these tender early days, after a dozen sanguine paragraphs about how IBM expected to profit mutually with a Trump presidency.
Speechwriter, what do you think? —DM