Where Ellen DeGeneres Went Wrong and What We Should Learn from It

“My instinct told me it’s time.” This is what Ellen DeGeneres said when asked why they are ending the show on its 19th season. But it’s clearly more than just instincts when just last year the show host’s reputation took a serious beating after alleged toxic workplace conditions and mistreatment. 

On a whim last week, I shared my thoughts on LinkedIn about the show ending and it resulted in hefty conversation that made it to the featured section of LinkedIn news. Thank you to all of you that contributed.

Due to the relevancy of the conversation, I synthesized the thoughts to the most poignant learning lessons in hopes that it’s valuable to you, our readers. 

Here are some lessons we can learn from the controversial case of the Ellen DeGeneres Show:

Take Full Responsibility

The “Be Kind” branding she and her team carefully curated throughout the years crumbled. Ellen’s statements regarding the controversy also didn’t help. In a leaked email addressed to her staff, Ellen acknowledged responsibility for what happened as her name was on the show, but she also claimed that she delegated a lot and trusted others to do their jobs as she wanted but clearly some didn’t. These people, she claimed, spoke on her behalf and misrepresented her. She claimed to take responsibility, but she still played the blame game. 

It seemed that Ellen only took responsibility because her name is associated with the production, but she excused herself from all the wrongdoings that she claimed she did not know anything about until the controversy broke out. 

How Not to Make An Apology

Ellen opened the show’s 18th season with an apology that was not able to achieve whatever it aimed to achieve. It was fake. It was vague. It was self-serving. It was excruciating to watch. She made it seem that she was just a victim after all. In fact, she was unaware of what was happening because she just learned about it. She said, “I learned that things happened here that never should’ve happened.” 

She went on to say, “And if ever I’ve let someone down, if I’ve ever hurt their feelings, I am so sorry for that. If it’s ever the case, then I let myself down and I’ve hurt myself as well.” One former employee said this in response, “Not only did Ellen turn my trauma, turn our trauma, into a joke, she somehow managed to make this about her.” 

Despite Ellen’s monologue ticking the three Rs of an effective public apology – Reacting to the situation, expressing Regret, and Reassuring people that it won’t happen again – it still fell short. It felt that it was done because it was necessary to save the show, instead of addressing those who are truly affected.

It tried so hard to save her branding and win viewers over that it misses out what’s truly important and that is sincerity in an apology. It lacked empathy. She clearly wasn’t able to put herself in the shoes of the people who were affected when she could still manage to sprinkle jokes and humor while apologizing. 

Never Underestimate the Impact of Employees

With the rise of social media, employees have a stronger voice than ever before. Before the allegations of toxicity and mistreatment in the workplace, Ellen already had a few of backlash but their impact is nothing as severe as the unforeseen impact of disgruntled employees

Social media allowed people to share their negative experiences. Networking with others to reveal shared negative experiences has proven to be powerful since everyone has their experience validated by others who went through similar situations. There is power in numbers. If there are many employees expressing the same message whether it be negative or positive about the company, more people will listen and believe.

The Importance of Evolving

The Ellen Show (that many people knew and loved) was done even before they announced its ending. Aside from the controversies, the show has run its course as other shows had. It never evolved. It’s been the exact same show it has been for the last 19 years. It hasn’t offered anything new for viewers to look forward to. 

The Ellen Show never evolved from the era of old shows like this from decades ago. It remained stagnant. In every industry, customers need change to stay interested. Every business needs to  evolve to remain relevant in their customers’ life. 

The show never really recovered after allegations about toxicity and mistreatment came to light—losing 1.1 million viewers, with ratings dropping 43 percent. This does not come as a surprise. Ellen built her brand on the motto “Be kind to one another.” 

Of course, viewers loved the entertainment, but for many, they loved the show for what Ellen’s brand stands for—kindness. It was shocking to the public when these allegations of intimidation, sexism, and racism surfaced. The general public wasn’t happy at all upon finding out that the upbeat and cuddly daytime host who advocates being kind to one another was not so nice after all.

In love and respect,
Hilary Corna

Hilary Corna

Bestselling Author, Keynote Speaker, Podcast Host, Founder of the Human Way ™...

Hilary’s favorite title is HUMAN.


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