Here but for the grace of God goes every employee communication professional in the world. In short: A company's layoff communication plan (and proposed language) goes public ahead of schedule!
A hundred lessons here, the most fundamental of which is: Be as sincere as you hope to appear.
Thanks to Kristen Ridley for alerting me to this disaster, and Susan Cellura of alerting Kristen.
My pleasure! Do you think the person should resign – outside of having a huge fissure of trust that has now been created?
David Murray says
I don’t know, Susan; I’m not real big on resignations, because they usually just seem like PR. What would the resignation accomplish, especially internally? Might even make matters worse, as remaining employees interpret it to mean: We’ll ALSO fire you for unwittingly revealing the truth.
It’s hard to imagine more of a firing offense for someone in or near our business, but I think the exec could accomplish more with a heartfelt letter to remaining employees about the culture the company hopes to (re)create going forward.
I know: I’m friggin’ dreaming, as per usual.
Too true. I would hope that the execs are the type that would see the sense in stepping up to the plate after such a mistake. I mean, a mistake is just that, a mistake. No one is perfect. In addition, most people know that there are many planning and messaging meetings before announcements are actually made, which is why there are such things as “grapevines” and “rumor mills” within companies. Yes, we’re probably dreaming. 🙂
My initial perspective was that this executive should be fired, however, David, you and Susan both make very good points against that course of action.
No matter how you slice it, this was a huge mistake, with enormous and far reaching impacts both internally and externally for Carat.
While having the senior executive stand up and apologize to the employees for the inappropriate way this got communicated would certainly be necessary and a good start at damage control, I still really question how effective that HR person will/can be moving forward after a fiasco like this.
Wouldn’t you be following up more frequently, and feel the need to be ultra clear in what/when/how you wanted this person to handle certain things if you were her CEO/President? I’d like to think I would be able to just put this behind us and forget all about it, but I don’t think I could.
Could others out there?
Very interested in other opinions on this. As a communicator, I have always felt that my reputation, and perceived ability to be discreet, capable and trustworthy (in addition to my specific communications skills, of course) are what make me valuable to all my business partners.
If there’s even a tiny little worry that I might make a mistake like this, that HAS impact the trust of my colleagues and thereby my ability to do my job, doesn’t it?
This is an object lesson in what happens when organizations are under too much pressure. There’s an amount of pressure we can all live with, and then there’s a point where it crosses a line. That’s when mistakes like these happen. Kristen, although I take your point about needing to be trustworthy and discreet, this wasn’t about someone with loose lips. This was a slip of the email, and it could have happened to any of us. In this case, it was particularly unfortunate, but who among us hasn’t sent out a companywide email with the wrong attachment, a mispelling, a date wrong? Remember that feeling? That sick reliving of how you could’ve got it right — and DIDN’T? Those three dozen phone calls of people pointing it out to you? That conversation with your boss that isn’t really a ocnversation, because both of you are so incredibly blown away by the awfulness of it? When pressure rises, mistakes happen. It’s as simple as that. Because I see how easily something like this can happen to any of us, I hate to think of this person losing her job. Honestly, although I have been fortunate to have been preserved by luck or whatever from a mistake of this magnitude, all I could think of when I read this (great find, Susan C) was how close all of us are to this EVERY DAY.
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