Is it mean to deliver truth, sans varnish?
Many of us might believe we’d like to be told when we do something wrong or cause offense. We might say, “Just be honest; you won’t hurt my feelings.”
Late last week, Robert Feder, a Chicago-based media industry blogger, published a leaked memo written to staff of “The Steve Harvey Show” by its host.
The memo outlawed pop-ins, cornering Harvey in the makeup chair, “ambushing” him and so much more. He won’t “entertain you in the hallway, and do not attempt to walk with” him. If a staffer wants access to Harvey, he or she must “schedule an appointment.”
While Harvey is a comedian, the memo is no joke. Variety authenticated it, reporting the host had sent it at the beginning of the show’s fifth season. It was said a disgruntled former employee leaked it.
It seems like Harvey is everywhere. He’s an author and producer in addition to his current duties hosting a daily morning radio program as well as “Family Feud,” “Little Big Shots” and the revival of “Showtime at the Apollo.” As a result, the memo went viral.
Opinions are divided. I’m among the unbothered. It’s unrealistic to expect him to be “on” all the time. He’s a busy professional — the boss; his memo draws a distinct line.
Many tweeted plans to distribute the memo to coworkers, neighbors, their kids and so on. (At least one mom will use it to attempt a parent’s pipe dream: bathroom privacy.)
Executive coaches rewrote the memo in a more “professional” way, presenting their versions via outlets like The Hollywood Reporter and “Inside Edition.”
Meanwhile, detractors have cried “diva.” He’s ungrateful, they say, and maybe the nice guy thing is an act.
For his part, Harvey told “Entertainment Tonight” that while he could have worded some things differently, he won’t apologize for the overall message.
“I could not find a way to walk from the stage to my dressing room, to sit in my makeup chair, to walk from my dressing room to the stage or to just sit and have lunch without somebody just walking in,” he explained.
It was his approachable, nice guy persona that had painted him into a corner.
“I’ve always had a policy where, you know, you can come in and talk to me,” he told ET. “So many people are great around here, but some of them just started taking advantage of it.”
This included everything from waiting for Harvey at his car to request favors to bombarding him with unscheduled personal guests who wanted to chat and take selfies.
Putting an end to this isn’t mean or even rude. Indicators show Harvey to be a thoughtful person of impeccable integrity. Consider his famous Miss Universe flub: He actually realized his mistake immediately, but a producer insisted he let someone else fix it the next day. Harvey refused. It was embarrassing and messy, but he understood the importance of telling the truth swiftly.
This new dustup highlights the tension between honesty and expectations. Harvey will say he’s not perfect. He can be snarky, and he was in the memo. But is there a way to say “stop it, please” and “no” without ruffling the feathers of those who expect too much?
I doubt it. How do you say, “Several of you have done inappropriate, unprofessional things” in a direct way that ends bad behavior and avoids conflict?
We should applaud Harvey for speaking plainly and refusing to deliver an insincere apology.