Gini Dietrich

Always Obey Your Gut: A Sean Spicer Case Study

By: Gini Dietrich | May 17, 2017 | 
13

Obey Your GutA few years ago, a friend called me to say he was starting a new business (his third) and he wanted us in on the ground floor.

Though it was a me-too company (a Groupon competitor), he was a really good friend so I went against my gut and signed a contract with him.

(Side note: ALWAYS obey your gut!)

During our very first meeting, we discussed things that were necessary for the first 30 days, such as a website, email marketing software, and a customer relationship management mechanism.

The meeting was a bit contentious—he was extraordinarily rude to his team, in front of us—but we managed to get away unscathed.

Until the very end.

As he was walking us to the elevator, he said, “Don’t f*** this up. If you do, I’ll ask for all of my money back.”

My team and I got into the elevator and looked at one another, stunned.

It was almost as if he were setting the stage to ask for all of his money back.

(Spoiler alert: He was.)

Fast forward two months and each meeting got worse. A LOT worse.

By the end of two months, we were all being verbally abused and it was impossible to do good work because we were all beaten down.

We went to resign the business and guess what?!

He asked for all of his money back and refused to pay us what was due.

We had to sue him.

Thankfully we won, but he is no longer a friend.

What Happens When You Ignore Your Gut

This story replays in my head, every time I see Sean Spicer botch a White House press briefing.

I cannot imagine having to go in front of journalists, day-after-day, spewing the latest story your boss asked you tell, all while defending his crazy antics.

There is a part of me who feels sorry for him.

Kind of like I ignored my gut and decided to work with my friend, I can imagine there is a part of Spicer that thought he could perhaps control the blatant lying while doing his job.

Maybe that’s the case. Maybe not.

No matter how you feel about Spicer—or what he’s like in person—he’s about to take a hard fall.

It appears this week the White House is setting him and Mike Dubke (the communications director) up as the fall guys for the bungled Comey announcement.

Here is how it all went down…

The Bungled Comey Communications

Once Comey was fired, Spicer was given all of an hour to devise a media strategy, part of which he “hid among the bushes,” while he tried to figure out what to say and how to say it.

To get back to his office, he would have had to pass a swarm of reporters, who wanted to know why Comey was suddenly fired.

So he conferred with his team among the bushes, right outside the White House.

By all accounts, Spicer and his team did not have an answer to why Comey had been fired—and hadn’t had enough time to get one.

Earlier in the evening, he stood in the doorway of the press office and “shouted a statement to reporters who happened to be nearby.”

Then he vanished.

It wasn’t until about three hours later that Spicer and his team went back outside to try to answer questions and were found in the bushes.

While you can certainly understand how they ended up there, in the wake of yet another day of crises from the White House, it adds a level of ridiculousness that even SNL had to get in on.

And, because of what we do for a living, I think we can all empathize with how stressful his job must be.

But at what point do we stop blaming his boss and put some onus on him?

Spicer is About to Take the Fall

It appears the onus is about to be placed on him.

Right after the announcement, Spicer went on a 10-day leave.

While his Naval Reserve duty was pre-scheduled, the timing to be out of the office is not so great for him.

The man, himself, has said to be “deeply displeased” with Spicer’s efforts surrounding the Comey communications, and Sarah Sanders has been presented as a possible replacement.

Spicer’s absence stoked a Politico report, claiming Voldemort was monitoring Sanders’s performance closely.

On Sunday, Axios also reported that a forthcoming shakeup could wipe out multiple senior staff, Spicer among them.

Of course, it’s not Spicer’s fault the communications was bungled, but he will take the fall for it.

It might be the very best thing that could happen to him—an easy way out of an abusive relationship.

Who Are You Surrounded By?

When we were kids, my mom always said to us, “Remember who you are and what you stand for.”

It’s a great saying in a situation like this because you become like the people who surround you.

And, in Spicer’s case, he has surrounded himself with bad people.

Those who believe they are above the law, admit to stretching the truth and are willing to lie to get ahead.

Of course, he’s on a national stage so it’s easy to armchair quarterback his work.

But what about the rest of us?

  • Do you work for a boss who is ethical and honest?
  • Do all of your clients have moral compasses?
  • Does your organization do valiant work or is some of it questionable, at best?
  • Does the work you do support your own moral compass?
  • When you go to work every day, do you remember who you are and what you stand for?

It’s easy to ignore our guts.

Maybe we do it for a dream job or an insane amount of money.

Or for a project that sounds really fun or for a friend, no matter the red flags.

We can make excuses all day for taking a job or a client we know won’t end well.

Learn from Spicer: Obey Your Gut

But, at some point, we get blamed for the destruction of something that wasn’t initially our fault.

Sean Spicer will end up OK in the end.

Perhaps he will learn to obey his gut for future jobs.

And you will learn, from watching his destruction, to always remember who you are and what you stand for.

Never let the promise of something you know is wrong woo you.

And always, always, always…OBEY your gut.

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

  • Nancy Davis

    I remember asking you for advice when I worked for that marketing company that had a client based in China. I had to write weekly press releases that said fracking was good. It would take me over an hour to write 500 words because I would try not lie. I felt sick inside knowing what my bosses wanted me to do was not ethical.

    I bet Spicey feels the same way. Poor guy is going to wind up with an ulcer. I would hide in the bushes too if I were him.

    • I remember that! LOL! Aren’t you glad you got out of there?!

  • Stephana West

    So true, Gini! Early in my career I let optimism lead me away from my gut feeling and I landed in a horrible job.

    It’s difficult for me to feel sympathy for anyone connected to the current administration in the White House, but I will always be grateful to Spicer for giving us the alternative to “no comment”; “The tweet speaks for itself.”

  • Kanye West

    This discussion is so on point. You know when I interrupted the Grammy’s to take that award from Taylor Swift’s ‘Baby ohh ohh’ and give it to Beyonce who had a way better song “ooh ooh Baby ooh way ooh’ I was going on my gut…and I was right. If you read the news after I was right everyone agreed with me and I did the right thing foillowing my gut.

    • As soon as I saw “Grammys” and “Taylor Swift” in my inbox, I knew it was Kanye!

  • paulakiger

    Really can’t decide which component of this post I love most. I suppose ultimately the biggest measuring stick for me is the fact that I have to answer to my kids for the choices I made and the integrity I did or did not exhibit.

    • I love this!

    • Brilliant! “I have to answer to my kids for the choices I made and the integrity I did or did not exhibit.”

  • I wonder why take all that crap? You know (or should know) nothing will change, no matter how much you try. It’s not the job itself, it’s the people!

    Yes, always obey your gut. When something doesn’t feel right, it’s because it isn’t.

    • I’d love to have a beer with him to figure out why he took the job…and why he stays. I feel like he needs to get out really soon, to save his own reputation.

      • I’d like to know too. I mean all the money in the world (which I don’t think he got anyway) is worth your reputation and health.

      • Keena Kincaid

        I’m not familiar with Spicer’s pre-Trump life and reputation, but I don’t think his reputation can be saved at this point. He will also be “among” the bushes in people’s minds.

153 Shares
Buffer15
Tweet95
Share11
Share27
+15