Communications are a Pain

It always happens this way.

Pick a random message: Let's say I want my folks at Matagorda to know that what they do is important.  So I visit from time to time and tell them they are doing a great job.  I will email them with the same message, emphasizing how important Matagorda is to the company.  Each quarter I will compliment them on their results.  I will show Matagorda in all my long-term strategy documents as one of our core operations.  Every time I am on the phone with them I thank them for their had work at so important a facility.

And then one of our employee's mailman's wife's gynecologist's dog's veterinarian's receptionist might say at a social gathering that she heard our company was leaving Matagorda and the next day I will have 8 people emailing me to ask me why I was about to fire everyone and, further, how mad they were to hear about it second hand. 

Sometimes I want to just give up.


  1. Larry Sheldon:

    Don't forget, advice is worth no more than what you paid for it.

    Rumor control is the hardest thing in the world to manage.

    Don't feel like you failed.

    My personal advice (which has not always worked well for me, but I still do it this way):

    Keep on doing what you were doing. When a rumor pops up go public far and wide with the rumor exactly the way you heard it and a short succinct denial.

    Do not ever ever ever get caught lying. If there is a grain of truth in the rumor own up and resolve next time to be the one that announces things like that.

    During the late 1970's and early 1980's we ("managers" of The Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Company) were sent to innumerable "seminars" on "managing change" in one guise or another.

    One that really stuck with me (and I have no recall what ever of the man's name, sadly) said (talking about secrecy and openness) that your competitors know as nuch about as they want to know--the only people kept in the dark by secrecy about what you are trying to do are your employees, whom you depend upon to get it done.

    That, and a long standing personal rule to always tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth because I am not bright enough to remember who I told what.

    And finally, I have a strongly held belief that if you want to keep something a secret, the best plan is to make posters about the secret for every bulletin board and a 8 1/2 x 11 desk-drop for every desk. Nobody will know it. If you want to get the word out, tell one person in the strictest confidence.

    With those rules (along with a standing item on staff-meeting agenda for "rumor control") did reasonably well over the years for me. Most of the time, something like what you describe would come to me in the form or "Larry, I heard the oddest thing....".

    In later years at the University I was constantly in trouble because of my openness (academia was a brutal shock for me) such that I had to tell my bosses "If you don't want me to tell my people, don't tell me."

  2. Joseph Hertzlinger:

    The same reasoning that appears to indicate that central planning could lessen "market failure" applies just as well to linguistic failure.

    On the other hand, it is obvious that setting up a centrally-planned language is preposterous ... or maybe "doubleplusungood" would be a better term.

  3. Joseph Hertzlinger:

    I meant for the above comment to appear on the "English as an open-source language" post.

  4. Emil Per.:

    let me guess:
    - you tell them "they are doing a great job" at regular intervals and in formal circumstances
    - you tell them "they are doing a great job" even when they screw it up slightly
    - you don't tell them "they are doing a great job" in circumstances that would be legally or morally binding for you
    - they have not much info on how your other operations are doing, and how much they contribute to the overall performance of your company
    - they have not much info on how their own operation contributes to the overall performance
    - on at least one occasion you behaved in an unpredictable manner or for reasons they did not know