Monday, March 26, 2012

I want to know!!!!!

My previous post revealed a huge conflict generated by misused words on a national scale. I now would like to discuss conflict and tensions that arise from the absence of words, on a much smaller scale. In May 2011, I did a three-week work placement in Paris, at the French market leading tourism-marketing agency. You would think that such professionals would handle internal communication like masters? Nope.
On my first day, as I was familiarising myself with the task I was asked to do, me and the girls in my department watched four men in black followed by the CEO doing what looked like an office viewing. As they left, I understood that nobody knew what was going on, and apparently it was not the first time something like this had occurred. Then, very predictably, it escalated. At lunch, rumours started to appear, from somebody who might have heard something from somebody. Conclusions arose from complete speculations. But what was blindingly obvious was the frustration of all the employees who were left in the dark. And it went on like that for a week, only aggravating the anger of my colleagues.
At the very end of my work placement, I learnt that the CEO sent a brief email explaining that the organisation would be moving at the end of the month into open cubicles. Cheers for that! I have to say I am quite happy that I left before all of that happened because I know that these news, instead of relieving the employees, upset them even more.
What should he have done? A meeting to tell the employees that he was planning on moving to new offices. Regular emails to keep them in the know. Maybe even ask them for their opinions or at least let them express themselves. In one word, be a bit more diplomatic!
Too many words (and especially when misused) can cause damage. But the absence of words in a world of transparency can be as dangerous if not more to an organisation. A month after I left, my work placement tutor quit. No wonder.


  1. Oh dear, doesn't sound like they went about this the right way... what a confusing mess up in terns of internal communication. It's not nice to hear you're moving offices from the ones inspecting the property! Ouch... I can see why your tutor decided to leave her position.

    What they should have done is told the employees first, sit them down in a meeting. Depending on how big the organisation is maybe the managers should have been told about the possibility of a change in location and then communicated that down the chain to the other employees. Basically any form of communication that is better than what they already did!

    Talk about conflict in the workplace...

  2. Indeed, they should have done exactly everything they did not do. A meeting in my opinion would have been the best way of communicating with their employees. The face to face situation allows space for a dialogue between the managers and the employees. This way, the staff would not have felt that frustrated and excluded. It was very weird having to witness this whole internal comms failure. I felt completely powerless when really, all I wanted to do was shout "TELL US WHAT IS GOING ON!!!!".
    Believe me, I will next time!

  3. Hi Sarah! I saw your comment on Leigh's post and I agree with you. Internal comms is too often overlooked. I am myself CEO of a small advertising agency and I always make sure that my employees know of any event, change in structure, ways of working, new hirings etc... I know that it makes my relationship with my employees stronger, which can only enhance the company's performance.
    Your experience is definitely not a good one, and so many things could have been done to even prevent this little crisis from happening.
    Great to see a student interested in internal comms! Good luck in the future and don't be scared to ask your managers for information you feel you should know.

    1. Hi John! Thank you for your comment and insights on how internal communication should be managed. I completely agree with you, successful communication between managers and employees can only strengthen the relationships in the work place. From my experience, employees feel very comfortable engaging with their managers but also communicating with each other. My experience in the company I mention in this post showed me that not only did it create tensions between managers and employees, but also between employees themselves.
      I have also experienced what I could define as "good" management, and I can feel the difference.
      If this experience has taught me anything, is that as employees, it is also our role not to let a crisis get out of hand. And if the managers want to hide, employees need to go and find them!