PR disaster: Milk-deprived CEO is not a-moo-sed

When Beckernam PR CEO Keith Zakheim discovered there was no milk in the office, hilarity ensued - and the resulting email was leaked on the internet.

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 30 Sep 2011
When it comes to over-reactions, this is more bull in a china shop than mad cow. Keith Zakheim, CEO of multi-million dollar PR firm Beckerman PR in New York, has been entertaining half the internet after an email he wrote laying into employees for not replacing milk when they’d finished it. The email was promptly leaked online – and spread faster than room-temperature margarine.

‘I am not happy and am at my wits end,’ wrote Zakheim in the email. ‘You will be fired for not replacing the milk, and have fun explaining that one to your next employer. This is not an empty threat so PLEASE don’t test me’. Eeek. Best hoof it…

The straw that broke the heffer’s back came after Zakheim’s favourite American football team, the Washington Redskins, were beaten on Monday night. ‘Imagine my chagrin this morning when I stumbled in at 7.15 after enduring a typically painful Redskins loss and in dire need of a shot of caffeine, only to find that the skim milk in the refrigerator had three drops of milk left,’ he wrote. ‘Literally three drops – an amount that would maybe fill the tummy of a prematurely born mouse.’ Do we detect a hint of sarcasm, there, Mr Zakheim?

In a drastic departure from received business wisdom that when giving criticism, one should do so in a constructive manner, he then went on to call whomever committed this heinous crime ‘either incredibly lazy, obnoxiously selfish or woefully devoid of intelligence – three traits that are consistent with the profile of FORMER (his caps, not ours) Beckerman employees’.

While MT has no doubt that the majority of bosses experience frustrations with their employees from time to time, we’d tentatively suggest bawling them out in an email is probably not the best method of disciplining. Not only will anyone who does so destroy their relationships with employees (or at least cause workers to make spinny duh-brain gestures behind their backs) – but, in the age of the internet, they also risk exposing themselves to online ridicule. Which is, arguably, far worse.

Not surprisingly, when asked for comment by the media, Zakheim’s reply was ‘the answer to your question is no’. Beckerman general manager Allyne Mills, though, gallantly attempted to put a positive spin on things. ‘This is all about communicating that we have a culture of responsibility,’ she said. Hmm.

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