Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Facebook, is one of the most powerful women in business.
Sandberg’s 2013 best selling book Lean In tells women not to be afraid to embrace their career aspirations just like she did.
A large part of Sandberg’s success is attributable to the online advertising model she helped develop for Google that she brought to Facebook when she joined in 2008 as COO. Facebook and Google have seen their advertising revenue balloon since 2004. Sandberg deserves the lion’s share of the credit for that. However, credit cuts many ways.
With great credit comes great responsibility
Sheryl Sandberg’s advertising model propelled her to global stardom. However, when the Cambridge Analytica data breach scandal was revealed in early 2018, that made her more famous, and just might start a chain of events that could lead to her eventual downfall.
The mishandling of Facebook’s reaction to the crisis happened under her watch as COO. Again, for this she deserves credit. Because she deserves credit, she likewise deserves to lose her job.
Facebook’s shareholders have lost over $200 Billion in value since July 2018 and user growth has stalled as people become more aware of how Sandberg’s advertising model exploits them. Sheryl Sandberg is not alone in bearing responsibility for Facebook’s woes (the company has a growing morale problem) but she must go for building the tools.
However, CEO Mark Zuckerberg must also go for using Sandberg’s advertising tools to exploit Facebook’s users and business partners for profit.
It’s not all about money is it?
Don’t get me wrong, as a sales guy, I am all for a healthy pursuit of profit but does it have to be so relentless? As a public company, Facebook is beholden to public markets and the central measurement of success there is shareholder value.
Facebook’s shareholders have benefited greatly from the revenues generated by Sandberg’s online advertising model over the years, so they should not be surprised to suffer losses when Facebook was exposed for exploiting Facebook’s users to generate those revenues — and then used dark PR tactics to “deny and deflect” criticism.
However, shareholders should also be able to rely on Facebook management to deliver shareholder value through more creative and efficient service delivery, not through exploitation. Shareholders do not make the operating decisions for Facebook, management does. When shareholders no longer trust management it is time for them to go.
Sheryl Sandberg and Mark Zuckerberg could have changed after it was first discovered, many years ago, that they were exploiting users without their knowledge. They did not change, but decided to go full speed ahead with their management status quo. Facebook’s shareholders are now suffering huge losses as a result — losses that are reasonable but not expected.
For relentlessly pursuing profit through exploitation at the expense of ethics, good judgement and sustainable business practices, Sandberg and Zuckerberg must go.