People get fired on Friday more than any other day (pdf; the chart above is from page 67)—perhaps because bosses hope that by Monday, the remaining employees will not remember that they used to have a cubicle neighbor. Along the same lines, companies often release poor earnings reports on a Friday–which makes some sense, since poorly-performing companies are hoping the weekend will shield them from a market freakout. And a lot of people still seem to think that if they have to make an unpleasant, explosive announcement that they want buried in the press, they should do it on a Friday.
This attitude is a bit outdated, since the internet never sleeps. And at least one piece of academic research has found that releasing poor company results on a Friday makes no difference to the share price in the long run. But it’s hard to break out of old instincts when it comes to dealing with huge personal embarrassment.
Today, the afternoon (US Eastern time) of Friday, Nov. 9, for example, came the dual resignations of Lockheed Martin’s chief operating officer Christopher Kubasik over an affair with a subordinate, and world savior General David Petraeus, the head of the CIA and former commander of international forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, over an extramarital affair with his biographer. Petraeus informed President Barack Obama of the affair on Thursday, Nov. 8 and tendered his resignation the following day.
Both announcements were spectacular, and both presumably could have come a little earlier. Kubasik, who was slated to become CEO in January 2013, was the subject of an internal investigation over the affair, which probably didn’t just happen to come to its conclusion on the same day the announcement was released to the press. Petraeus evidently wanted to spare his boss any pre-election embarrassment, but could have broken the news a day earlier. One can only assume these announcements were intentionally timed for Friday, the day on which factory workers are supposedly so spaced-out that according to received wisdom you should never buy a car made on a Friday.
Kubasik was accused of violating Lockheed Martin’s Code of Ethics. The Code is a 44-page booklet that you can read in its entirety in 17 languages including Hebrew, Arabic, both US and UK English, and simplified Chinese. Kubasik was guilty of a no-no named on page 25: “Having a close, personal relationship with a subordinate employee.” Perhaps the most compelling part of the booklet is on page 34, with the section heading: “Warning Signs–You’re on Thin Ethical Ice When You Hear…” some of the following:
“We didn’t have this conversation.”
“Well, maybe just this once.”
“No one will get hurt.”
“This is a non-meeting.”
One can only wonder which of these were uttered during Kubasik’s illicit trysts.
The timing of the Lockheed Martin announcement follows another rule of bad news: the most forgettable slot to put a piece of information is the penultimate one, so put all embarrassing stuff there. To wit, the company announced shortly after its statement about Kubasik’s resignation that it had already chosen his successor: the executive vice president of its electronics systems business, Marillyn A. Hewson, who gets to be president, COO, and come January, CEO as well.
If Lockheed was hoping to avoid being battered by the market, it succeeded: Following the announcement, the company’s stock rose 6 cents to close at $89.98.