Toronto Mayor Rob Ford

Career lessons from Rob Ford – Part II

Peter Harris|

The Mayor of Toronto has made a lot of headlines since taking office, and the volume and reach of these has become staggering over the past few weeks. Since the police announced that they have the video of Rob Ford smoking from what appears to be a crack pipe, and the mayor himself admitting to smoking crack cocaine, the eyes of the world have been on Toronto city hall.

Workopolis polled our users last week to see if the daily breaking news stories were having an impact on workplace productivity, and 64% of people said yes, because “nobody is talking about anything else.”

Last year, when the Mayor was temporarily removed from office, we wrote an article called Career lessons from Rob Ford, about how it was his attitude that was causing his career setbacks rather than any particular action.

Well, it’s time for a sequel. The current situation offers a new crop of career lessons that we can take away from the Mayor’s public struggles. This time it’s looking more like actual actions are the problem. But that problem is made worse by how he handles the situation when issues come to light.

How you phrase things matters

When asked if he smoked crack, Rob Ford replied, that yes he had, “probably in one of my drunken stupors.” #inoneofmydrunkenstupors was trending on Twitter for several days after that. The line was repeated on every news broadcast and comedy show (and it’s not a good sign when a politician gets quoted on both at the same time).

The choice of words compounded the issue. Now he was saying that not only does he smoke crack, but that he also has (multiple) ‘drunken stupors’ where he wanders around making bad decisions.

In the workplace, be careful how you say things. Taking greater care of how a message is delivered can have a huge effect on how others react to it.

Taking responsibility for mistakes is good

Far better would it have been for the Mayor to say something like, “Yes, I have tried crack cocaine. It was on a night when I had too much to drink, and that led to my making a very poor choice that I deeply regret. I apologize to anyone who is let down by this, and I have entered into an alcohol addiction program to ensure that nothing like this ever happens again.”

With that choice of words he would not only owned up to the mistake, but he would also have apologized, and detailed an action plan for ensuring that it would not be repeated. And that is what people want to hear.

Learn from the mistake, and fix the problem

Everyone makes mistakes at work. They don’t have to be career-ending. The key is to learn from them, be up front in taking responsibility for the things we get wrong, and implementing changes to ensure that the same mistakes aren’t made twice.

That kind of forthright honesty actually builds trust in the workplace. Obfuscations, denials and half-truths just tend to spiral out of control and end up making things worse.


Peter Harris
Peter Harris on Twitter

Category: Latest News & Advice
  • lucretius

    Well said!

  • Virgo Hermit

    SOME people are just bullies and liars like Rob Ford. The only thing his arrogant ass is ‘sorry’ for is that he has been exposed. The lesson that should be gleaned from this sorry person is DON’T let the illusion of power consume you,.. DON’T be a hypocrite,.. DO say what you mean and mean what you say.

    • Sonia

      Really???? I guess David Miller and Dalton McLiar never told a fib right?

      • hfwgx

        you forget that they listened to their constituents which is what we elect them to do! Unless Torontonians want Ford to continue behaving in a reckless manner then the difference is he is NOT doing what they want him to do. However I am amazed at supporters who say hey he’s doing a good job as Mayor keeping the ‘gravy train’ at bay, however just think of all the money being wasted now by this diversion. Surely even his supporters can see that he is now much more of a liability than an asset to the city. Got to feel sorry for him though. Too many others suffer what he does yet don’t have the press on their backs. Addiction is addiction and I am happy that his sister is pleading with him to get the help he needs. Mom-continue to work on your son. He really needs you right now.

        • Sonia

          Hi hfwgx, I’m not a Ford supporter….I don’t live in Toronto but do own property there….my property value is still up, my garbage is being picked up and quite frankly those in the 905 are sick and tired of hearing about Rob Ford….get on with it…there are more important things happening in the world than what Rob Ford is doing!

          • hfwgx

            yup! you sound like a yuppie or boomer who is ‘all about’ your own personal well being! Figures! I do agree that ‘enough’ about Ford, however the critical issues that his CASE has raised are excellent points of discussion and debate toward a better society for ALL. For instance, you are lucky to have property there. Good for you! However I bet you gouge some poor sap who will never be able to own their own place because prices have been so ridiculously raised that the young will now be proverbially poor. Even with good education many can’t get jobs that pay like in the boomers days. Or, perhaps you were lucky enough to have a nice inheritance. Good for you but there are more NOT like you than those who have such good fortune….and yes, garbage may be being picked up but it is in no thanks to Ford and the city. It is only by the grace of the unions that fight for average workers to have a salary to be able to afford even meagre housing in such an otherwise ‘wealthy’ city!

          • Maco

            Typical self-centred, complacent, ignorant, right-wing Canadian……

          • Sonia

            Listen Maco, I’m not self centred, complacent, ignorant nor right-winged….perhaps you are one of the “gravy trainers” who has no aspiration other to feed off of other peoples hard work…

          • Maco

            Funny how you told someone else that they don’t know you and not to make any judgments about you, and here you are doing the same thing. Not surprised though; you’re after all a typical right wing Canadian; masters of hypocrisy……….

          • Sonia

            First of all you are the one who started making the assumptions….secondly talk about hypocrisy…go out and get a job buddy and stop living off the taxes that I pay (and all the other hard working “right wing Canadians”…that’s your problem….you have nothing (probably a lifetime renter) and you are jealous of anyone who has something!

        • Eric

          HFWGX, you seem to be a die hard Liberal and those charlatans are runing our every day life like no one else and as per Mr. Ford, he did stupid things more for himself and his family than for us.For us he did more good than bad because he cut off the dirty hands of Liberal theves that have sucked up our tax money from city`s budget(and yes I do know this from inside and not assuming things).

          if you trying to brainwash people in here dont waste your time because your media out there doe s a lot for you and those behind you.

  • Maco

    All I’ve learnt from the Ford saga is that Canada is a truly elitist country contrary to popular thought, because Rob is proof positive that the rich and powerful can get away with anything in Canada due to undemocratic laws and a judiciary which ensure it…..very pathetic

    • Nadine Callan

      OMG really? Like they can’t everywhere else in this world? Sorry to burst your bubble but NO COUNTRY or civilization in the history of man has ever had ruling power that has no dirty laundry. Try Developing countries where 90% of their population is poor and most jobs are in Drug trade or diamonds, US government isn’t exactly clean either where a mayor in a small town in California was making more then the president. Not to mention everything else. How about any other country? I’m not say Canada is perfect it’s not However I am saying turn your powers of perception to your own country and you will find the exact same scenario playing out somewhere right now.

      • Sonia

        Finally someone who makes sense…..get over it all of you and move on to move important issues…rather than all this stupid idle gossip

      • DrCaligari

        Yes, well, we’re supposed to be different.

      • Carlos Gomez

        Haven’t you hear the quote of a famous Canadian: “Canada, the first country of the third world”? I agree with you. These things only happen in third world countries. the difference is that in the case of the developing countries they put the dead for drug trafficking, and here in Canada , the mayor of a main city smokes it and nothing happens!

        • Maco

          Very well said Gomez!

        • Dick Chappey

          Don’t hop MY border GOMEZ

        • Linda Susan Corbett

          Where you from?

      • Maco

        Typical Canadian, you just have to bring others in to justify your unjustifiable actions. Well, at least those so-called developing countries are supposedly not in your league; viz, so-called G8 country. Surely, we shouldn’t be seeing stuff like this here at all, but unfortunately, it is the norm and I’m sooooo happy the world’s attention is being focussed on Canada and I hope more of your dirty laundry will soon be in the international arena

        • Nadine Callan

          Well apparently you and most everyone else missed the point of my comments completely. Your saying Canadians are self absorbed? I said and am saying these problems affecting Ford are prevalent everywhere in developed and any other country. But apparently you didn’t read that far. I think Canada is a great country and if you like yours better that’s fine.

    • Terry

      Well, said….. and his sorry ass should be kicked out of office.
      TAKE A LEAVE!! What the hell for? Kick his sorry ass to the curb!!
      You mean, take a leave so that us tax payers can pick up the tab for his mistakes, his addiction…..sure that makes sense!! We get to pay for his leave of absence and for his replacement while he is in rehab. Makes perfect sense to me!! Duh!! He needs to pay for his mistakes and be put out to pasture!!

      • hfwgx

        unfortunately even if he ‘steps aside’ he will still be getting paid by taxpayers dollars so there is no financial benefit to his stepping aside except to cut down on all the media expenses and overtime related to the story….

        • Miss Mad

          Not to mention the savings to be made from not having to pay for his prostitutes, drugs and coke…

      • Eric

        First:He was voted with majority and because you didnt vote for him you cant remove him.

        Liberals that wasted 1.1 Billion dollars of our tax money and that want to teach our pre-school kids how to use condom and how Ok is to be homosexual……
        These shrlatans are runing our every day life like no one else and as per Mr. Ford, he did stupid things more for himself and his family than for us.For us he did more good than bad because he cut off the dirty hands of Liberal theves that have sucked up our tax money from city`s budget(and yes I do know this from inside and not assuming things).
        if you trying to brainwash people in here dont waste your time because your media out there doe s a lot for you and those behind you.

    • hfwgx

      Yes Canada is an elitist country and definitely not the best in the world anymore. Many are aware of this, however if you don’t like it leave. I’m tired of paying taxes to support your ilk who only come here to ‘milk the system’ for your own benefit, which is the very same thing you accuse the Mayor of and for which I think we are working hard to change for everyone. I am not his biggest fan either but there are many countries and cities far worse so ‘be careful what you ask for’ or criticize otherwise you become a bigger hippocrate than Ford!

    • David_LloydJones


      You’ve made the wrong diagnosis. The problem here is that Ford has managed to create and buy an angry, resentful local electorate, fed on hot dogs and pop, nothing more, and a program of resentment and sour envy.

      This is a working class electorate, ignorant and uninformed, and kept that way by local big mules who benefit from their votes, and the low taxes they have been told to like despite the fact that they are the ones who most need the services.

      The Ford brothers are Toronto’s local version of America’s Dixie Tea Party local leaders.


    • Ian Gelb

      Careful Marco ,your NSA are listening in .
      talk about paranoid pathetic .And just the tip of the cover up iceberg in your tea party dixie back yard,.More money on weapons than health ???

  • Stef McLachlan

    It is my view that when all credibility has been lost and people stop believing in you as much as you believe in yourself, it is time to do the decent thing and resign. By staying and digging his heels in he is showing nothing but pompous arrogance and a total disrespect for the people he set out to represent. The damage he is causing to ‘brand Toronto’ on the worldwide stage

  • JSydneyH

    Wow! Even on a work related site – while trying to show people alternative ways of acting in crisis situations – some people just can’t resist the temptation to offer their opinion on something they can’t control.

    @virgohermit:disqus He MAYBE a bully; he MAYBE a liar – what does that have to do with managing power or being a hypocrite? I suspect his problems existed long before he assumed office; the media attention and hyper-focus have only made it more obvious. Everyone’s life – under a microscope – looks terrible, especially when all you hear about are the mistakes they make. I’m sure, that during even this recent cycle of events, there are people whom Rob Ford has helped, and that is the lesson I’m taking away from him – that even in the dark days, you can still do some good for some one else. That doesn’t excuse the bad things; I’m just trying to add perspective on the situation.

    @disqus_OKuSi0zmsh:disqus – How does this demonstrate that Canada is an elitist country? And why did you ever think it wasn’t elitist? Do you believe the mayor has gained a special advantage because of his position, or do you believe he gained extra scrutiny because of it? Do you think the police would have mounted a million dollar surveillance operation of you and your friends if there was a media report you smoked a crack pipe? Or was it because he was the mayor? Do you believe the police would have addressed you directly on the allegation of crack without evidence? Or would you like them to follow due process? Please expand your argument; I’m curious about how this incident has reinforced your feelings about elitism in Canada?

    Besides, networking while searching for a job is all about elitism – using the contacts you have to curry favour with an employer. Use your circle of friends and contacts to the best of your – and their – ability. Are you employing this sense of elitism to your advantage?

    • Nadine Callan

      Well said thanks.

    • Maco

      Wow!, You’ve answered your own question with the last paragraph! And please call networking what it REALLY is, legalized favouritism/nepotism and legitimization of discrimination.That’s what galls me the most, the hypocrisy on all levels…………

  • Stef McLachlan

    Contd from below
    Should be a deciding factor. This little or not so little saga has hit the worldwide stage and it makes Canada and hardworking proud Canadians look foolish….that he is still in office is a joke. The drunken rages show him to be a bully and not a nice person at all……shame on him and all those trying to keep him there.

  • Larry Harding

    Dear Mr. Harris,

    Would you please share your message with Prime Minister Harper?

  • Norma-Jean Hunter

    start watching the rest of the government like they watch Rob Ford…they all have dirty laundry…he has done many and I mean many good things for this city

    • Neosis

      No, actually, he hasn’t. Try listing them and you’ll see that all of Ford’s achievements were actually accomplished by his allies despite his bumbling. Even Rob Ford’s electoral win was only because he pretended for the entirety of the campaign to not be himself and did exactly what his campaign managers told him to do.

      Ford claims to have saved the city money, but that work was actually done by Mike Delgrande. The subway to Scarborough is a signature achievement, yet the Rob Forde voted against funding it. If he’d had his way there’d be no subway and he’d be blaming the province for why it doesn’t exist.

      The good things that Rob Ford has lied about doing far exceed the good things he’s actually done.

    • hfwgx

      I agree with neosis. Tell us. Yes. Tell us. What exactly has Ford done besides try and prove he is a good football coach and can drive himself everywhere (until recently). There is no ‘I’ in TEAM and I think the TO Councillors are doing their best to help steer the city in a healthy and productive manner so kudos to you all. I wonder what Mike Layton is telling his father these days about how his legacy of civility and compassion is unravelling. I do not live in TO but appreciate it’s importance on the world stage and support all the good work that others (who have not been born into money) are doing to make the city a better place.

  • Khrishna

    Sorry but Canada is the most democratic country in the world that is why alot of people cheat the system and are still free. For you to say such things means that you really are not offe’ with our system.

  • Khrishna

    One other thought, Let the mayor clean up his mess and try to see who in this world does not have skeletons in their closets? Moving forward… any job fairs around?:-):-)

    • Adisappointedreader

      Queen Elizabeth II has led a very exemplary life during her over 60 years of reign. She is a role model to the rest of the world. Oh that others will follow her example – especially when one is in public office and in the public eye. People scrutinize your behaviour, conduct and words uttered that can go viral within a few minutes and bring disgrace to you.

      • Jimbo Bogie

        Of course her son (and future King) has led an
        “exemplary life hasn’t he?

        • Adisappointedreader

          I was referring to Queen Elizabeth II and not her son. Besides, no one knows if he will ever be the future king. It might never happen!!! He might be over-ridden by Queen Elizabeth’s grandson, Prince William.

  • Guy

    Peter Harris need to write proper English, punctuation is missing and we all agree that you must choose your words not just in the workforce but in all of your daily life and using Rob Ford as an example is just not cutting it as it a terrible example. We need to simply forget about Rob Ford so he can go away and do something that is not hurting the people. Using our tax money to make him more famous is a bad media.

    • hfwgx

      I think that is ‘needs’ to write proper English. People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. You’ve just embarrassed yourself in your own comments….however I agree that if we remove all the attention, he may actually go away! Since he loves being the center of attention, all the media concentration is only feeding his frenzy!

    • Lee Henry Hodgins

      Says the person with the long run-on sentences without proper punctuation.

      • Guy

        That will show you how proper English is important, my point is simply to avoid all this merde about Rob Ford and his issues. We all have issues and we deal with them different, but he never realized that he represents a big city. I agree that the S was missing and you see how people jump to biting someone’s A.. and that is what everyone is doing to Rob Ford.

  • Steve

    Great advice – if you want to be a wussy team-playing peon.

    Y’all wanna rule the roost? Follow the mayor’s lead!

    • hfwgx

      oh. and your impression of ‘leadership’ obviously differs from mine, which is ‘leadership by example’. Team work does not have to be ‘wussy’. In fact it is anything but. True leadership is one of the hardest qualities to develop yet those who do end up being wiser and more reasonable and can appeal to a wider section of the population. Certainly the quality of LISTENING is a key element and Ford is obviously lacking in that area. Ford is not a leader in any sense of the word. Too bad. He could have been a good ‘role model’ but has trashed that. But a leader? No way. Bill Blair has demonstrated these qualities in spades. Maybe he should take a stab at the top job next! Cant’ do any worse than Ford! Oh, and I bet now Lastman isn’t looking too bad now, is he?

    • to_tell_the_truth

      If you want to be the laughingstock of the entire world, Follow Rob Ford’s ‘lead’.
      Literally, from CNN, to Jon Stewart to even the Taiwanese are laughing at him. And, by extension, Toronto.
      If you call that ‘ruling the roost’, you have cognitive dissonance.

  • hfwgx

    People. How is it that when Senators are only accused of fraud they are suspended without pay yet Municipal law states that if a Mayor is accused of such he cannot be suspended in a similar manner? Let’s get real. For now he is legally allowed to ‘dig in ‘ his heels. Not good for his health or for the city so work to change the loopholes allowing this! And, lessons learned, as much as I hate it, Mr Senate leader, please reinstate Wallin, Basseau and Duffy at least until they have their day in court.

    • Miss Mad

      Well, hello! Well said.

  • Syd Jamieson

    Elite indeed. I was an alcoholic, I showed up for work, and when I got canned, I was escorted off the premises by security. That’s what happens in real life. Politicians, at the trough of plenty with bullet proof jobs, need not worry about ramifications.

  • mustangelly

    I would rather have someone like Rob Ford in politics because he doesn’t use your tax dollars like the other politicians do. Have the taxes increased and nothing done for you. Unless it can be proved he used your tax dollars for his problem or habit, I think he needs to stay.

    • Eric

      That is Damn right!!!!!!!!!
      But morons and brainless people dont get it!!

      • Maco

        Unfortunately,Canada has an inordinately high number of such people, reason why someone like Ford was voted in in the first place, amongst other things ………..

  • Aeey Gueey

    “Everyone makes mistakes at work. They don’t have to be career-ending …”

    Crack addictions cause people to sell their mother’s cars to get a fix. So, tell me, workopolis, should we risk having Mr. Ford selling our city?

  • thaghost

    Rob Ford for Prime Minister!

    • to_tell_the_truth

      I guess even a crack-head and admitted liar and drunk could do a better job than Harper.

      • Eric

        I guess what Mr. Harper did for all of us it is not enough eh? Well he did better than the liberals in Ottawa with Mr. Gagliano that stole 400Million from our tax money and Mr. McGuinty that gave away 1.1 Billion Dollars…what a political ignorants this country has?!

  • Eleanor Dorst

    how this guy got elected I just don’t get it… and I am curious who lost out to him?? He is holding the biggest mayoral position in Canada yet, he is making a laughing stock of all of us. I wish they would show him the door. Isn’t his wife and kid and other families embarrassed by this by now?

  • Peter

    Rob Ford is fucked up , he does crack ,drink’s , so do most of the political lowlifes that are in power, revert the power to the people . the low income and poverty stricken to make the rules for everyone

    • Maco

      That is just the sad truth,the extent of alcoholism and drug use in Canada is something no one wants to acknowledge because few people are uninvolved one way or the other…..

  • Ray Anthony

    Rob Ford is the greatest political joke in the history of Toronto or maybe even Canada. Problem with political jokes is they get elected!

  • Minou

    Rob Ford has been elected and will be replaced at the next election I suppose. The media is overdoing it. Enough said about that. Can’t we move on?

  • disqus_hz8dBriQig

    He’s no different from the thieves in the senate at least it hasn’t been proven that he used tax payer dollars to purchase his crack cocaine!!

  • Miss Mad

    All of the above “lessons” are self-evident. The only real lesson it that this is what you get when you elect a redneck buffoon. Conservatives are often stupid — not Harper, mind you, which is what makes him so dangerous. It’s easy to stay on track when your only agenda is to enrich the the already rich. Ford excels at this — he’s bullish for the, um, middle class — as he sees it: i.e family units in the suburbs who hate change, taxes (even though they pay for their services) and anything they don’t understand — i.e. Gays, Jews, Blacks (ironically) and Asians. Still, I feel for his dysfunctional family.

    • Sandra

      Get over this already. He fessed up to using crack cocaine, SO HAVE MANY PEOPLE(he is held to a higher STANDARD only because he is the MAYOR) the media hound dogs drove him to it. The have been harrassing him day in day out showing up at his home, get a life already, are they so desperate for news and sensationalism. Personally I don’t believe the hype, everything negative that they report is ALLEGEDLYLeave Rob Ford ALONE. HAVE A HEART stop being so self righteous.

  • Colleen Clarke

    excellent article and advice Peter!

  • Krystine Blair

    Can I just say I’m bored of all the Rob Ford crap already? This is a great article as there are lessons to be learned here, good lessons. But anyone who doesn’t think this type of raucous behaviour hasn’t been going on behind the doors of leaders since the beginning of time is just naive. The difference is that now everyone has a video camera in there pocket (aka a cell phone). And as far a this tarnishing the image of Canada, give me a break. I know that most Torontonians will disagree, but there is more to Canada then their city. I, as a Canadian, am able to laugh at the jokes made about Ford because I know the this is the story of the week and there is a race on to get the best ratings, the biggest scoop and the diriest tidbit. All in all, I haven’t heard anyone say anything about Toronto going broke or Ford not doing his job. And besides, I’m from London, ON, I’ve got my own mayor to worry about.

  • Leah Sweeney

    It’s not only the workplace where one has to carefully phrase things, it’s in other aspects of life, too. I wrote letters to a doctor in confidence because it was the best way, quicker way to get past her secretary. After writing a letter to an OB/GYN expressing concern about side effects I believed to have suffered from a certain contraceptive, I listed the side effects as panic attacks, anxiety attack on one occasion, sharp pain, abdominal pain, pain from UTI infection, lighter than normal cramping and periods, suicidal thoughts on one occasion, she misconstrued it as my being on the verge of doing harm to myself, ended up sending me to a psychiatrist when she should have ordered a CT scan to find out cause of my pain.

    After my regular doctor ordered CT scan, she found out reason for my pain: enlarged gallbladder, issue never had before. Sorry for taking too much room on this website, but I felt the OB/GYN read me wrong and should have been investigating my side effects instead of sending me to a “shrink” to get him to do her job for her.

    • Maco

      I bet it was a Canadian-trained doctor too; comes with the territory……

  • Rabih Choucair

    This is such a shame… Should we all really learn from RF?? I believe that you should not ask to learn by an example that is distorting the way a city is perceived. A lier is a lier, and if that lier knows how to talk about things that he did wrong does not make it right. Polish a t*rd and it stays a t*rd.

  • Henry Reyes

    What a shame. After all, the Canadians think that they are the cream of the cream when the case is good manners, clear laws, and civilized people.
    C’mon people, in every country of the world, always there will be crooks and junkies.
    The only difference with those countries is that they accept it, recognize that they exist and they dont give a damm.
    Here in Canada, the system try to shade the Sun with a finger.
    Rob Ford: crack user
    The Preimer of Ontario: Marihuana user
    Trudeau admited that he used(maybe he still use it)
    Three senators that spend $ like a typical latinamerican senator
    Some other senators using tax payer money for paying hookers.
    The Prime minister used tax payer money for painting a plane that doesnt belong to his party but bears the colours of it.(SOB)

  • Ian Gelb

    Does nobody remember the mayor of D.C????? who was caught on video tape with a hooker in a hotel room smoking crack not so long ago .Marrion Barry was his name.He was also re elected .Youd think this is the first time this sort of thing has happened ,what about the prez who got caught getting a blow job ????

  • Eric

    The first one to test positive would been Mr. Ford and second Kathleen Wynne and Mr. Trudeau.
    They are all f#@ed up

  • Maco

    Awww,.. the truth hurts. You tell me first what makes you intolerant of the truth, then we can talk……

  • Maco

    At least you had work to do, unfortunately a LOT of people do not have that luxury, due to the pervasive greed in all sectors of Canadian life…….

  • JoeW

    Really. Making a truthful observation on you which you do not like to hear makes the guy intolerant? Crawl back to under the stone where you came from. LOL

  • Nadine Callan

    Well I was just trying to be slightly more politically correct than I am usually.

  • matthew

    Eric, discussing politics in the workplace, or related sites is a career limiting move, just as is discussing religion.
    This article is about taking something trending in the news and learning from it.