Coca Cola

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Assessing A Crisis

Coca Cola In Belgium

Holly Benavente

Advanced Organizational Communication

Introduction On June 14, 1999, the Coca Cola Corporation faced a severe crisis after it was reported that 200 people in Western Europe had become sick after drinking the company’s products. In Belgium, Coca Cola was severely criticized for what many saw as a negligent response to the crisis. This response paper examines how Coca Cola’s organizational culture and pre-existing factors within Belgium played a role in the crisis. Coca Cola’s Organizational Culture According to George Ritzer, author of the controversial book The McDonaldization of Society, Coca Cola’s organizational culture is characterized by formal rationality: an emphasis is placed on efficiency, predictability, calculability, and control. Coca Cola produces a product that is predictable (a Coke produced in Congo tastes similar to a Coke in Iceland) and efficiently produced. In the addition, the corporation has gone to great lengths to control costs and streamline operations. Ritzer, however, also argues that there is a negative element to this type of organizational culture. As organizations strive for more rationality, they also become more irrational. Ritzer argues that as more emphasis is placed on quantitative results (how many Cokes are sold), less emphasis is placed on quality. Coca Cola, in the late 1990s, exemplifies this irrationality and it is a key factor in the crisis of the tainted Cokes. The Crisis A dysfunctional organizational culture is clearly evident in how Coca Cola handled the crisis. When the first reports of poisonings emerged, Coca Cola responded by denying that a problem existed and went as far as to blame those who had fallen ill. The crisis did not abate. The Belgian government was the first to order the company to recall its product. Other countries across Western Europe soon followed with similar recalls. As time passed, the slow response affected levels of trust...
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