AOL’s Tim Armstrong Played the Blame Game and Lost

AOL’s CEO, Tim Armstrong, did precisely the thing that they tell you to do in public speaking classes: Tell a story to illustrate why you’re doing something (or why you should do something). It helps people relate, it builds empathy, and it allows your audience to understand where you are coming from.

The only problem is, what he was doing was lowering an employee benefit, and the story he told was about how two very “sick babies” cost the company.

To keep reading click here: AOL’s Tim Armstrong Played the Blame Game and Lost

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6 thoughts on “AOL’s Tim Armstrong Played the Blame Game and Lost

  1. In the spirit of assuming the vast majority of actions have a positive intention I’m going to assume the message he wanted to deliver wasn’t evil babies take money to which they are entitled to from helpless multi billion dollar company. Still it leaves a bad taste in my mouth especially since he made a classic mistake when he released his next statement defending his jackass comments rather than apologising for being a jackass. Stupid and rude is not a good combination.

    1. I’m sure it wasn’t his intention–his intention was to use an example to personalize it. He chose the wrong one!

  2. I wondered why if AOL is self insured that they don’t have a reinsurance policy to protect them against million dollar claims. So not only is his judgment lacking in blaming the problem on preemies, either he doesn’t know what’s going on with the benefits or they are not doing it right.


    Someone who used to work in group health insurance

    1. Yeah, it sounds like they are self insured. I wasn’t sure, so I didn’t say anything directly, but that would be my guess.

      One time I heard a company make a similar announcement about a particular employee hitting the lifetime maximum health insurance payout–except, they said “because of this, we’re raising the cap so he can continue to get care.” I couldn’t find it, though, so I didn;’t say it. But I swear it happened.

      That’s good practice.

  3. You said in the article:
    “People do not have empathy toward big companies, and they certainly don’t think about the trials and tribulations of paying out actual health care costs. Insurance doesn’t equal free; it just means someone else is writing the check.”

    It seems as if you think companies are the benefactors but that isn’t the case. The workers produce the profits, if any part of the business isn’t producing enough to even pay its own way then that part of the business will be gone soon enough. AOL decided to self-insure. Why would they decide to do that? Sounds like they thought it would cost them less money. If they had been right and collective healthcare costs had been lower than expected would they have given that money back to the workers? I don’t think they would. Can you acknowledge that it’s the workers that write the check for their health insurance?

    As usual the AOL 401k move reminds us that if things go well for a company, the owners win, if things go badly the workers lose.

    1. It’s been a long time since I was in the business, but I thought one of the reasons companies self insured was to get around some ERISA requirements, not because it would necessarily cost less.

      I used to work for Prudential Insurance. For the very large accounts, if claims were less than anticipated, we would send a rebate check at the end of the year. So a company can benefit from lower than expected claims even with traditional insurance.

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