The Fear Factor Is Lew Dickey

The trades recently bandied about Cumulus CEO Lew Dickey’s aptly coined phrase, “The fear factor is quickly leaving the system”.

Dickey was apparently referring to sluggish advertising and his “optimism” that “The mood today versus a year ago has dramatically improved and all of the small businesses that we’re calling on across the country are feeling more optimistic. The result is people are starting to think proactively about growing their business and marketing again.”

What they left out was that Lew Dickey is the "Fear Factor".


I know Captain Lew is the darling of radio convention panels. That he loves to spew his Harvard-inspired reinvention of the wheel strategies in making radio into a Dickey-approved entity, but stop already.

This guy is an exterminator!

Lew Dickey brags about reducing his work force by 6% over the past year – not to mention previous years. He has, according to a class action lawsuit against his company, forced employees in California (and perhaps elsewhere) in essence to work for free.

And when it is not for free, it’s next to nothing once you factor in the extra time voice tracking stations, after-hours responsibilities that are expected and failure to get reimbursed for legitimate business expenses.

Just to keep it real, here’s the story from an abused Cumulus employee:

“I was a sales person with Cumulus in (redacted to protect the source), and have written you a couple of times, once because our GM was having our computers shut down for several hours during the day to force compliance with CSOS. And the other after the creation of the Key Account Manager position and reassignment of accounts. Each time I was 'accused' of being a 'narc', a 'mole', and 'airing the offices dirty laundry" (dirty is right...)

(I) was fired (recently) - one reason given was for my not completing routine paperwork on 2 dates, one of which was Thanksgiving Day...hmmmm, and the other was an approved sick day when I was out of the office. Don't know if that's actually illegal, but it's pretty asinine in my book.

Anyway, I just wanted to let you know I have also contacted the attorney's office (Robert Ottinger, who is leading the class action lawsuit against Cumulus on employment related matters) in order to help out, or be a part of the class action suit…

Oh, one more thing, I didn't file for unemployment, because I had monies owed to me, and thought that may have jeopardized that paycheck. You can bet I'll be filing now, and we will see what happens”.

Fear Factor?

There is no shortage of stories.

A Cumulus market manager who according to one of his employees actually pulled off this stunt:

“Our Market Manager has the mistaken idea that blasting music at a ridiculously high volume will cause us to be more energetic and increase productivity …

….So, we've started closing the door on the office. Apparently, this annoyed (Gary) Pizatti so he told the manager he ought to take the hinges off the door.

Fast Forward about 4 days... a Monday Morning. We walk in the office and low and behold....the doors to the sales offices have been taken off the hinges.

Never mind that we have personal items in the offices. Who cares that we have client banking information etc. And of course, while I would like to believe that we don't have thieves on the staff it is always a possibility since we did have one a couple of years ago.

How much simpler would it have been for them to treat us like adults and simply ask us to leave the doors open during business hours? Much of the staff was livid, and rightly so”.

Management through fear seems to be the approach Lew Dickey is taking these days.

Dickey Doo watches what his employees read (his employees cannot read this site, for example, through the corporate server although Lew told me he reads it. Hi Lew!).

He spies on his sales people through burdensome meetings that are linked to home base in Atlanta by Skype and video cameras.

Some Cumulus employees tell me a camera is focused on their sales pits and when Big Brother watches it makes them uncomfortable.

They start off each new sales week at one Cumulus station with a “motivational” speech you wouldn’t believe, but this employee can tell you:

“…when you're told that if you don't sell anything you might as well start looking for a new job first thing Monday morning, it tends to deflate your motivation.

I believe this could be a great job, but not when you're getting your legs cut out from underneath you”.

So, look – I can’t tell The Dickey Nation how to run radio and you can’t either.

But I sure as hell can call the greedy ones out when they step over the boundaries – using fear of unemployment in a recession, personal attacks and management tactics that are more reminiscent of the Gestapo than Dale Carnegie.

Lew can run, but he can’t hide.

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