There's a good yak starting over at Robert Holland's blog about trust: the extent to which communication relies on it versus the extent to which communication can actually build it.
Robert got the conversation going by talking about a couple of personal relationships, and how his efforts to communicate with children and lovers rise and fall on whether or not they trust one another.
I weigh in by saying that organizational communication is essentially political, that:
everything we do takes
place in a socio-political context having to do with rich people’s
attitudes about middle-class people and vice versa, middle-class
people’s attitudes about poor people and vice versa, managements
attitudes about labor and vice versa.
And it’s EXACTLY why modern communicators, who believe they can be
effective if only they’re organized and align their messages and their
media and their measurement tools, are fools.
Unfortunately, they’re fools who tell management exactly what it
wants to hear, and they get hired over the guy who says, “Look boss, we
need two years of trust-building just to get the guys down at the
Trenton factory to listen to the first word out of your mouth.”
It also occurs to me to add here, a point I've been thinking about for awhile, about politics and the advisability of writing about them in a "communication blog," like mine, Steve Crescenzo's, Shel Holtz's or Robert Holland's.
I think two truths apply:
1. Readers don't come to a communication blog (or an IT blog or a horse whispering blog) to hear one more asshole's opinion on the merits of the public option. A communication blog will be resented for ranting and raving about the same policies or politicians that Keith Olbermann and Bill O'Reilly are railing about. It's not hard for our readers to get to, "If I wanted to listen to this crap, I'd turn on my TV."
• But almost as off-putting is a communication blog that never reveals the writer's political view. We are not just "communicators"—amoral information trumpets to be played, sweetly or sourly, by whoever owns us. We are players in the organizations we work for, participants in the lives of the people we communicate to, factors in the consciences of the people we advise. If we believe that management is greedy, that is one thing. That employees are whiners, that's another. That spineless middle managers are the problem, that's a third.
Our attitudes about labor unions, technologists, American customers (are they always right, or is a fool born every minute?), investors … these are all political points of view that must necessarily inform any communications we do—and advise our clients to do.
Is the solution persuading employees that current working conditions are "competitive" (and, thus justified), or is it getting managers to make a key concession? Does the organization need to improve the quality of its products, or do consumers need to be "educated" to have more realistic expectations. Communicators don't have a final say in such decisions, but they certainly have a horse in the race.
And so a communicator who takes pains to hide his or her general attitudes and specific opinions about these kinds of issues—as circumstances arise and as the spirit inspires—is doing so in order to give hiring managers the false (or worse, correct) impression that they'll play whatever tune that's requested.
Talk about your trust issues.