Harvard Business Review has joined the mud-slinging over former Time Inc. CEO Jack Griffin’s firing, in a blog post, “Jack Griffin’s Ouster: Lessons from a Failed ‘Change Agent.’”
Griffin came to Time Inc. last summer as a rare outsider, and had been widely praised for his success running Meredith Corp.’s magazines. In canning Griffin after just six months, Time Warner spun his story as one of a leader whose abrasive style led to widespread dissension, although several high-ranking insiders said they were unaware of any complaints leading up to his firing.
The HBR post, by editor at large Julia Kirby, takes a one-sided view of the matter that’s decidedly pro-Time Warner, and executives there are reportedly recommending the piece as the authoritative explanation of what happened with the ousted CEO.
“Griffin is, I hear, not known for emotional intelligence,” Kirby writes. “He launches into tirades at meetings. He belittles people for not knowing or doing things he considers obvious. He calls people in for command-performance meetings at odd hours—seemingly just to remind them he can. He rarely says thanks.”
Later in the piece, she writes that Griffin’s missteps included not including others’ ideas in his game plan and surrounding himself with “cronies” that were “perceived to be carbon copies of himself.” At one point, she even suggested that in calling for change, Griffin “appears to have applied this ‘kick me’ sign to himself.”
When it comes to Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes, though, the tone is far kinder: “Word is, Bewkes' acknowledgement of the culture clash, decisive action, and appointment of three respected managers to an interim leadership team, have gone a long way to reassure people that he values their values, and wants them to stay.”
Griffin hasn’t yet responded to an e-mail sent by Adweek seeking comment.