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It's Time Once Again for 'How Not to Do a Conference Call'

AOL CEO Tim Armstrong has done it again: during a conference call to explain changes to staffers' 401(k) plans, he mentioned that some of the cost was because two AOL-ers had "distressed babies" in 2013.

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(Photo Credit: imagerymajestic/freedigitalphotos.net)

New York magazine reports that Armstrong said:

"Two things that happened in 2012. We had two AOL-ers that had distressed babies that were born that we paid a million dollars each to make sure those babies were okay in general. And those are the things that add up into our benefits cost. So when we had the final decision about what benefits to cut because of the increased health-care costs, we made the decision, and I made the decision, to basically change the 401(k) plan."

Later, in an internal memo, Armstrong explained that it wasn't his intention to blame staffers for having babies that needed extra medical care, but rather to explain the reasons for the changes:

"This morning, I discussed the increases we and many other companies are seeing in healthcare costs. In that context, I mentioned high-risk pregnancy as just one of many examples of how our company supports families when they are in need. We will continue supporting members of the AOL family."

As corporate sorry-not-sorries go, that's not bad, but it most likely doesn't mean a lot to the two mothers, who are probably hiding in the ladies room right now, fearful of pitchfork-waving co-workers massing outside.

So, in addition to the usual conference call reminders -- mute when you're not speaking, dress as if you were in the office, speak clearly and slowly -- we must now add this admonition: conference calls are not emails. You don't get a draft, and you can't recall them back in a second or two. Think about how your words will affect people at your company.

Especially if you're the boss.

Tell Us What You Think

What's the worst thing you've ever heard on a conference call? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

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