• Bill Holmes

My experience with “Cancel Culture”, Part 13 – Final lesson and summary

“Everything is funny as long as it is happening to somebody else.” Will Rogers

“When someone would mistreat, misinform, misuse, misguide, mishandle, mislead… or any other "mis"… to others, they’re obviously missing something from their lives.” Donald L. Hicks, Look into the stillness

I was a victim of “cancel culture”.

In the beginning I wasn’t even aware it was happening. I went from being the second in command of a non-profit to being completely removed from that organization in less than 6 weeks! Had I realized I was being canceled; I might have prevailed.

If you haven’t read the story, you can find it beginning on my October 14 post here: https://www.projectmanagementforum.net/post/my-experience-with-cancel-culture-part-1-background

This is the final post in this series

People are getting cancelled every day!

As I type this, the news is reporting that a young girl made the mistake of posting something on the internet when she was sixteen years old. Someone waited 2 years until she was heading to college (how vindictive do you have to be to do that?? Insight into the mind of the "canceller"), then they sent that post to the college and demanded they kick her out.

She reacted in shame and disgrace, and as a result they kicked her out.

There is another story about how “cancel culture” is stifling political debate. Major political figures are being "de platformed" by social media, so you aren't even allowed to hear their opinions. You aren’t allowed to take a different political position without the fear of having people you don’t know attack and smear your reputation. How can you debate substantive issues like the value of “lock downs” if you aren’t allowed to have a different opinion?

From a pure risk management perspective, this is a disaster. You need diversity of thought, skills, education, and culture to look at all sides of an issue so you can identify and assess risk. If you stifle legitimate debate you will suffer from the results of unknown risk.

Someone trying to cancel you is not normal behavior.

Which leads to my final lesson.

Lesson 9) When they try to cancel you, stand your ground! Then go on offence. If you are accused of something, determine if you did it! If you did, be honest and add the proper context. If you didn't, don't expect that to be the end of it. Regardless of the situation, do it quickly!

Then go on offense.

Someone (or a group) trying to cancel you is not normal behavior, so you can’t react normally.

In my situation, I spent an inordinate amount of energy trying to prove that the accusations against us weren’t true. I spent weeks building a beautiful defense that quantitively eviscerated their accusations against us. I went so far as to compile a binder with numbered and documented "proof" that they were lying about my colleague and me.

No one cared!

What I failed to recognize was that the damage is inflicted by the accusation.

Even as I was being accused, I knew the board was trying to cover up their own bad acts.

There were conflicts of interest. There were accounting irregularities. There were zoning violations. There were poor management practices. My mistake was that I thought that I needed to have "proof" of these acts of malfeasance. By the time I had the proof assembled, the battle was already lost.

The damage is inflicted by the accusation. Had I acted aggressively earlier, the situation would have ended differently.

I wanted to be reasonable, but reason is not a rational response to an irrational situation.

Winston Churchill once famously said that “Appeasement is feeding the alligator and hoping he eats you last.” The alligator is coming for you.

Will you be reasonable? Or will you fight the alligator?

The choice is yours.


One of my colleagues on LinkedIn shared an article on the importance of strategic alignment in delivering project value. I think that is a great topic! The next series will bounce around a wide variety of project and management topics, and will cover everything from strategic alignment to good decision making. Thanks to everyone for the positive comments on the “Cancel Culture” series!

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