Mike Klein is an employee communication practitioner who likes to argue communication philosophy. Like all philosophers, Klein sometimes bites off more than he can chew, and occasionally chews more than he bites off. In a recent blog post, he brings up a huge point, and resolves it far too glibly. Here's the whole post:
At various times in my career, I have encountered fellow communication professionals who have either said that internal communicators are either a morally virtuous breed, or should aspire to be so.
Some claim this virtue should derive itself from being the “advocate of the employee”, others because our role in supporting our organizations’ objectives through communication is intrinsically “noble.”
I have always rejected these notions.
At our best, Internal Communicators are advocates, who use our skills to benefit the organizations that have hired us, to involve, engage, inform, persuade, and integrate the people whose support is required for their success.
Doing this well means doing this honestly, responsibly and respectfully. In my view, it means assessing the broad mass of stakeholders rather than just one’s own sponsors, and it means helping and challenging those sponsors to look beyond transactional and territorial objectives. And it also means being willing to keep things moving when my advice is adjusted or rejected.
When I am doing this well, I am being an effective professional. Whether it makes me a better—or lesser—person, I will leave for others to judge.
Here's my judgment, since Klein asked: Klein is not quite being honest with himself here. I think he senses that it is dangerous for communicators, or any other gang of people, to be convinced they are doing what they call around my wife's inner-city elementary school, a "job for Jesus." But I think most of us believe we are doing good with our work. And I'm almost sure Mike Klein thinks he's doing good, or could be doing good, with his.
Really, Mike? You founded an online forum for communication debate called CommScrum, you regularly debate and consult with IABC leaders about the future of that organization and you formulate unique (and sometimes tortured) theories about how employee communication should be different … all in the free time you have between the consulting work that you do all over Northern Europe.
And we're to believe that you pour this much of your heart's blood into a cause that amounts to no more than "being an effective professional"? You want that on your tombstone? "Here Lies an Effective Professional"?
I think we can argue about whether professional communicators, by and large, make their organizations better places to work and thus make society a better place to live. I think they do—especially when I contemplate organizations without them—and I also think they could do more, especially if they were philosophically grounded and principled, like Mike Klein is.
But I've known many hundreds of communicators, and I know that most of them believe they are doing good in the 'hood—that they are attempting to bring humanity, candor, democracy into cold, clamped-down, autocratic corporate workplaces.
Mike Klein first among them.
Mike, who do you think you are kidding? And more importantly, Why are you bothering to try?