ABC just announced it will not renew the hit show Roseanne, the reboot of the '90s sitcom. Late last night, Roseanne Barr, the show's star and namesake, took to Twitter with a racist "joke" about Valerie Jarrett, former advisor to President Obama.
She wrote: "muslim brotherhood and planet of the apes had a baby = vj"
Barr later apologized for the joke she said was "in bad taste," deleted it, and then announced she would be leaving Twitter. In a statement, Channing Dungey, president of ABC Entertainment, explained why the network took swift action:
Statement by Channing Dungey, president, ABC Entertainment:-- ABC Publicity (@ABC_Publicity) May 29, 2018
[Issued on May 29, 2018]
Barr's Twitter statement is abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values, and we have decided to cancel her show.
Many people rebuked Barr's remarks, including her own co-star, Sarah Gilbert.
Roseanne's recent comments about Valerie Jarrett, and so much more, are abhorrent and do not reflect the beliefs of our cast and crew or anyone associated with our show. I am disappointed in her actions to say the least.-- sara gilbert (@THEsaragilbert) May 29, 2018
Prior to the announcement of the show's cancelation, comedian Wanda Sykes, who consulted as a producer on the show, announced she would not be returning as a result of the tweet.
I wish I didn't have to write about situations like these so often. But each incident brings with them lessons that can be applied to businesses of all sizes so that preventable missteps like these aren't repeated. Here are two big ones.
1. Bias still needs to be addressed at every organization.
ABC's move to cancel Roseanne comes on the same day that 8,000 Starbucks stores are closed across the U.S. for racial bias training.
As much as we've evolved with race relations and embracing diversity, inclusion, and belonging, there is still work to be done.
As a business leader, the first step to creating an environment where everyone on your team feels like they belong is to acknowledge that we are not yet in a post-racial utopian society.
Biases, both unconscious and conscious, are still present. Thus, to prevent them from creating a toxic environment that keeps you from doing the work to serve your customers, you must create a plan to stop it.
Start with training. Essential aspects of that training plan include unconscious bias, cultural intelligence, emotional intelligence, and empathy.
Reinforce the training and your values with frequent dialogue. Get comfortable having the difficult conversations that are necessary along the journey to shifting mindsets.
2. Companies must act swiftly to weed out behavior that is contrary to their values and desired company culture.
ABC canceled Roseanne less than 24 hours after the original tweet. While Barr was the lead actor associated with her show, her actions negatively impacted the cast and crew who worked on the sitcom. The whole situation is unfortunate.
But ABC had to make it clear that Barr's remarks, and anything like them, are unacceptable and will not be tolerated.
As you work to create a culture that fully embodies your values and beliefs, you have to act boldly to shut down any behavior that threatens it. Even when it comes from top performers.
The Roseanne reboot was a ratings hit for ABC. According to Nielsen, it finished its first season as the number-one scripted primetime television series among the 18-49 demographic. It had already been renewed for a second 13-episode season.
Disney is the parent company of ABC. Disney CEO Bob Iger echoed his support for canceling the popular show, noting "There was only one thing to do here, and that was the right thing."
When you demonstrate in both word and deed what you stand for, you foster a culture of like-minded people who not only share your values, but live them.