Reading about the Atlantic Monthly’s move to Washington, DC, gave me deja vu. Not many people may know, but its offices were two floors up from ours when Fast Company operated out of 77 North Washington Street in the North End, in Boston. The FC office closed down at the end of 2003, moving to New York under a new editor-in-chief and now the Atlantic is following suit. In FC’s case, as a relatively young business magazine that embraced change, our move made sense–not only economically, but also falling in line with our call to evolve and push boundaries in order to remain competitive. But I don’t think you can say the same thing for the Atlantic, whose founding in Boston is very much a part of its identity and values.
What struck me was reading about Atlantic owner David G. Bradley’s about-face with regard to a promise he made to staffers in 1999 to keep the title in Boston. Surely, we’ve all encountered one or two promises that management couldn’t keep. On the one hand, I feel a little sympathetic to Bradley for holding out as long as he could. But which is worse, a CEO who is upfront, straight, and blunt with the truth, or one who will give it their best shot only to fall short on a promise? If you were an Atlantic staffer, would you forgive Bradley, or revile him for trumping the bottom line over tradition? What are some broken promises you’ve encountered from management, and how much were you able to forgive the CEO of manager for making them? As a manager, have you ever had to renege on a promise? How do you do that and still retain your staff’s trust?