Ronn Torossian
Ronn Torossian

United Airlines has been in a public relations nightmare for a few years now. It appears the company keeps making the wrong moves, with bad decisions on the behalf of managers and workers alike. However, while it’s easy to sit back and blame employees for the things that go wrong, the truth is that it’s up to managers to guide their followers in the right direction.

While the backlash that United Airlines has experienced might be a bad thing for the company, it proves several teachable moments for managers who are still trying to find their feet in a leadership position. Maybe other leaders can improve their chances of avoiding the same mistakes.

Here are the lessons managers can take away from United Airlines:

Everyone is watching

When someone gets promoted to a manager position, they find themselves in a great opportunity to show off their skills and make an impact on the right people. While this chance can be a fantastic way for people to prove what they’re made of, it’s also worth noting that people in managerial positions are under a lot of scrutiny all the time.

In today’s world, everyone’s watching, which is something the entire world had a chance to witness during the recent incident between United Airline and the French bulldog puppy. Facebook Live, Snapchat, and smartphones means that there’s no way to sweep poor decisions under the rug. As a manager, you need to live with the decisions you make.

People want answers

Managers light the way for their teams, giving them guidance towards an end goal or accomplishment. To do this, they need to answer questions and show confidence in themselves when making crucial decisions. Unfortunately, when the chips are down, it’s tempting to dither over responses, or deliver canned answers instead of carefully-thought-out ones. When United Airlines speaks out about incidents, it often gives basic responses that don’t mean much and don’t help to make the situation any better. As a manager, it’s important for leaders to make sure that they have the information they need in place to give real in-depth responses to their people — no matter how complicated the questions might be.

Remain professional and genuine

There are a lot of expectations for any manager to live up to when they enter a new position of power. Whether it’s filling the big shoes of a previous manager, or simply trying to live up to personal goals, it’s important not to get overwhelmed by a position. The more stressed a manager becomes, the more tempting it is to begin sweeping things under the rug. If United Airlines had responded to the issues it’s had in the last couple of years in a more professional manner, they might not be in the difficult position they’re in the day. Above all else, it’s important for managers to maintain their professional and genuine air — particularly when the chips are down.


Ronn Torossian is CEO of NYC based PR firm 5WPR.