What All Managers Can Learn from Steve Harvey’s Latest Fiasco


Few thought that TV personality Steve Harvey could incur more ire than he did after he mistakenly announced the wrong winner at the Miss Universe pageant. However, we were wrong.

Now, the comedian turned talk show host is under fire for an internal email he sent employees which was later leaked revealing his not-so-funny side. The memo outlined how he prefers for staffers to communicate with him, and, specifically, how he refuses to allow employees to speak to him.

The memo reads:

“I’d like you all to review and adhere to the following notes and rules for Season 5 of my talk show. There will be no meetings in my dressing room. No stopping by or popping in. NO ONE. Do not come to my dressing room unless invited. Do not open my dressing room door. IF YOU OPEN MY DOOR, EXPECT TO BE REMOVED. My security team will stop everyone from standing at my door who have the intent to see or speak to me. I want all the ambushing to stop now. That includes TV staff. You must schedule an appointment.”

It continues, “Do not open my dressing room door. IF YOU OPEN MY DRESSING ROOM DOOR, EXPECT TO BE REMOVED” and “Do not approach me while I’m in the makeup chair unless I ask to speak with you directly. Either knock or use the doorbell.”

Whoa! Talk about harsh.

While we’re all for Harvey’s attempt to set professional boundaries, but he went about it all wrong. Many managers and employees struggle to maintain an open-door policy while setting limits, however, according to Rob Wilson, human resources expert and President of Employco USA, Harvey’s memo provides a valuable lesson for us all.

Here is Wilson’s advice for how managers can set boundaries without being rude or causing a PR crisis.

1. Schedule regular, ongoing meetings.

“If allowing for open door policy is too disruptive, management should schedule ongoing meetings with different types of employees to ask for feedback and suggestions for improvement.”Encourage employees to proceed with caution.

2. Encourage and inform employees. 

“Open door policies can work depending on the company’s culture, size, and if the executive’s time allows for it.  It helps to win employees’ trust, and it makes the office feel more like a team and less like a dictatorship.  However, when possible, it is more efficient to create a policy that encourages employees to bring issues, ideas and complaints to supervisors and lower-level managers before they head straight to the CEO. If a CEO is putting out small fires all day, they can’t tend to the real work of running the firm.”

3. Be careful about memos.

“Steve Harvey’s important message got lost in the delivery (i.e. using lots of caps, saying security will remove employees, etc.) Instead, when sending an all-employee message: ask someone else to read it first, wait at least 1 day after being frustrated before communicating, and once it’s sent, consider it permanent record. So ask yourself: Do I want this to be part of my workplace legend?”

4. Conduct town hall meetings to convey pre-rehearsed message.

“Speaking in person often makes a tough message a little easier to swallow. Tone can get lost in a written message, and it allows for people to gossip among themselves and get worked up behind closed doors. But, if everyone is at the meeting and hears the message all at once, it loses potency as a gossip item and it’s easier to make sure your tone and intent are understood.”

All great advice, right? 

Executive coach Chelsea C. Hayes took it one step further to rewrite Harvey’s blistering memo. As an expert in training millennials and executives in management skills, we thought it would be handy to share her revision:

Good morning team, welcome back!

I cannot thank you enough for making Season 4 of the ‘Steve Harvey’ show one of the best experiences of my life. Your hard work is what makes it happen.

I’ve been experiencing some challenges around finding time to eat, prepare, and check in with my family when we’re not shooting. This has become increasingly difficult and exhausting for me. For Season 5, please allow my dressing room to be a safe space where I can be alone so I can be sure to bring my absolute A game to each and every one of you.

If any of you have ideas on a structured system we can implement outside of my dressing room for more touch points, please send those ideas to ABC (any representative you choose) by ABC (any date you choose).

I can’t wait for this new season, thank you for all that you do!

Steve Harvey

In a recent interview, Harvey explained his memo and feelings. “In hindsight, I probably should’ve handled it a little bit differently.”

“I just didn’t want to be in this prison anymore where I had to be in this little room, scared to go out and take a breath of fresh air without somebody approaching me, so I wrote the letter,” he said. “I don’t apologize about the letter, but it’s kind of crazy what people who took this thing and ran, man.”

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