The end of the year is a great time for pomp and circumstance — especially when it comes to corporate messaging about the company performance. You get rah-rah speeches full of corporate speak.
Given last year’s performance, for most of us who suffered through layoffs, loss of company matching 401(k) funds and no raises, corporate speak rah-rah speeches are enough to make you throw up.
This year, I’m hoping management’s messaging is a bit different. One that gets closer to the heart of what employees everywhere are experiencing. It is a simple, three-point communications plan:
Right now, there is still no job growth, only job losses. While the wounds of last years layoffs are sewed up, the bleeding still hasn’t stopped. Employees are scared, want to see leadership from their management team and corporate speak doesn’t cut it. Acknowledging how tough conditions are and the challenges facing managing and working in that tough environment provides something missing from most management messages: empathy.
Families have been stressed to the max from declining stock prices in their retirement funds, mortgages that are underwater, spouses that have been laid off and friends and neighbors who are in financial straits.
If a year and a half ago you had all the answers for what was coming in 2009, would you have operated the same way going into 2009? Of course not. But we didn’t know. Economists and pundits were all pointing to growth in 2009 and what we ended up with was the Great Recession.
In our business, we need to accept that we don’t know all the answers. And it’s OK not to know. Instead, we should get input from the people that work with us, communicate what we will try and do, execute to the best of our ability and then see what happens. A by-product of this approach? We all might learn how to do stuff better instead of thinking we have the answers.
Read enough management theory, whether in books or blogs, and you will continually sense a paternalistic attitude when working with employees is discussed. Listen to your employees, like a child is listened to by the parent. Help your employees engage in their job, like a child is encouraged to try new things in the sandbox. Watch your employee’s behavior, even though as a parent we don’t watch our behavior.
While I understand some people never grow up, most people do. Especially when they are hit with what employees have been hit with the last year and a half. Resolve to treat adults as adults and see what changes it brings.
Management has a powerful role in the success or failure of a company. So do employees, but employees don’t get enough credit for pulling a company through. We, instead, laud the strategy of the company’s CEO in Business Week and talk about the internal debates on execution of the strategy in Forbes, like employees are an afterthought. Which they too often are.
Let’s acknowledge that the environment is tough, we don’t have all the answers, and we will resolve to treat each other like adults.
After all, we’ve got our big girl panties on. Deal.
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