A veteran professional communicator recently wrote about Farmers Group, where employees are threatening to quit or form a union because the CEO switched from a remote work policy to a back-to-office policy. Some of them had rearranged their lives around the remote work plan, and now they’re fucked.
The communicator asked his communication colleagues this: “If you’re in the same boat, how have you handled communicating the change and working with feedback once you’ve communicated it?”
Why is it that the only people who need to be reminded what communication is, is professional communicators? Or, what communication isn’t, anyway. I often say that CEOs need to hear: Communication isn’t just you, talking. I shouldn’t have to tell communicators that, too! But I do.
Imagine a husband telling you he “communicated” to his wife that he was leaving, and taking the kids. And then calling whatever his wife said in reply, “feedback.”
Imagine a doctor telling her friend that she “communicated” to the patient that she operated on the wrong lung, and referred to the patient’s reaction as “feedback”—or, as we also hear, “blowback.”
Yet all the time we hear about companies or their leaders “communicating,” and employees or other groups, offering “feedback.”
No. The Farmers CEO didn’t “communicate” the change in policy. He changed his mind, and simply “told” people about the new policy.
If anybody “communicated” here, it was the employees. They put the “co-“ in communication by responding. “Responding,” that’s a good word. Wouldn’t it be nice if we replaced “feedback” with “response”?
And so a far more honest sentence, it seems to me—and a more communicative one, at that—would be, “If you, too, have told employees that you changed your mind about letting them work remotely, how did you explain your change of heart? And how did you handle their response?”
Yes, this all seems like semantics. But boy, semantics is a pretty big deal, when it comes to communication.
Eager for your feedback.