Imagine what would happen if, each time Johnson & Johnson ceo Alex Gorsky was driving his car, his phone rang with news about another product recall. Most likely, he would not get very far if he pulled over to the side of the road while trying to digest one startling recall after another. Or still worse, he could continue driving, but become terribly distracted by such gaffes and possibly cause an accident.
Recognizing that such distractions can be hazardous, especially to a busy ceo, Gorsky has issued a friendly reminder to J&J (JNJ) employees that they must put their phones down when driving. And if a phone must be used, calls can only be made or received in a parking lot.
In a recent internal memo, which was entitled ‘Eliminate All Distractions,’ Gorsky is quoted as saying that “we’ve got to put down the Blackberries, the cell phone and the iPhone and focus on our #1 mission when we are behind the wheel and that’s driving.” The prohibition extends to anyone driving a company vehicle for business or personal use, and this includes driving in J&J parking garages (here is the memo, a copy of which was obtained by Pharmalot).
Gorsky cites public safety, but there are also liability issues in play. J&J is legally responsible for mishaps that occur while someone drives one of its vehicles, especially while using a hand-held device. As noted in the memo, the state of New Jersey, where J&J is headquartered, has made such behavior a primary offense and fines are issued to violators. But insurers will not look kindly on violators either.
This may be a problem for sales reps, though. What will happen when a district manager rings or texts with a dictate or question as the rep is hustling to visit another doctor? Answers must be provided. Will drive time be considered an allowable excuse for not answering immediately? The rep could pull over into a parking lot, which Gorsky suggests is an acceptable remedy, but then the rep may be late.
Well, you can’t have everything. As for Gorsky, he may not actually share such concerns, since he most likely has a chauffeured car to take him from place to place, which allows him to react accordingly to whatever news emanates from the other end of the line. Of course, given the spate of recalls, he may do better by simply turning his phone off altogether. After all, who needs such distractions?
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