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The communications hall of shame

STEP right up, ladies and gentlemen. Today we are taking a stroll down the Communications Hall of Shame. Believe it or not, this is a huge locale littered with the names of CEOs, managers, supervisors, politicians and employees, including you and me, who have committed communications gaffes in recent history.

How do I describe the trophies that deck the walls of said Hall of Shame? Let's just say the design is apt and impeccable. It consists of a magnificently carved tree stump with a picture of a goat tied thereon because you and I well know that for most of us our 'shame tree' is, as my mother would say, "dead and goat tie pon the stump". It is useless to call names because we all are at some time or other in our working life guilty. Tell me if you see yourself in anyone of these persons who have breasted the tape to snag the trophy and snatched shame from the arms of decency.

The non-communicative manager

Engaging employees to pump up productivity, improve the bottomline and pull the company out of the mire of recession is what it should be all about, right? I mean, everyone is desperate to hold on to their job. They are not bustin' any wrong moves that will put their paycheques in jeopardy and them out of favour with the rent-man and the suppliers of their utilities. So, how come my manager refuses to tell me what is happening at the top of the stream? How come I have to hear about changes to my job description through the grapevine? It should not be that the ancillary's Miss G has a fuller grasp of the restructuring of my department than I do. Why should I feel as if getting the basic information about changes to our product line from Mr Manager is like pulling teeth. Sure, crap flows downhill and in particular to my cubicle, but an occasional 'heads-up' from the supe would not be a bad idea How come?

The answer is that my manager/supervisor is loathe to share pertinent information with me on a timely basis. Managers who function optimally are usually good at sharing information with their team members. The reality is that most managers are promoted on the basis of their technical and other successes in their areas of competence. Communication skills are usually not at the top of this list. Unfortunately for us all, these managers have the most trophies lining the Hall of Shame. Their victories are our defeat because we stand clueless as to some of the most fundamental changes happening in our organisation and in the industry. How do we cheat our managers out of adding another trophy on the wall? Demand, require and inquire about the procedures for disseminating information in your company.

CEOs without souls

These trophies are the biggest ones lining the Hall of Shame. Do you have a boss who lies frequently and blatantly in front of staff gatherings and buck-shuffles or gets belligerent when piercing questions are asked? Chances are his name graces the Hall. Is your company's leading man the type who blithely sends out e-mails about staff cuts and other sensitive information that is best delivered via other means or by other staff members, such as the human resources officer? More than likely Mr Big Boss Man has his name firmly etched on the shame tree's stump, never to be erased because his second will never ever be found in the annals of the history of mankind. If you feel as if you are literally just a nameless, faceless cog in the wheels of production in your organisation, chances are your boss has made the Hall of Shame List and you should be proud.

On the other hand if your superior makes time to have regular monthly staff meetings with all the staff members (not select groups of 'yes' men and women) as well as management meetings to properly brief managers of industry and organisational changes, then chances are we will not find any trophies with his name. If your chief knows a little about your daily grind, is appreciative of the stresses and makes information accessible and timely throughout the company, then you are likely to give him the applause he deserves because his reputation will never make it to the Hall of Shame.

Lying Companies

Let us get one thing straight: most companies do not tell lies they just re-decorate the truth. Haven't you and I seen and heard them at work? They promise the customer one thing and when all is said and done deliver barely nothing. They make a huge public mistake and have egg all over their faces but they persist in lies...err, embellishing the truth so that they can end up salvaging their images. It is a sad fact that some communications practitioners aid and abet the sad state of lying companies, not that said businesses needed help in the untruth department. It is true too that well-intended advice is often discarded, misinterpreted and repackaged to suit the needs of the organisation as they fight for the preservation of their 'good name'. Well, as we have all seen and heard (2009-2010: Tiger Woods, Toyota) it is just a matter of time before the truth in all its sullied glory comes tumbling out into the open. Well, companies will never stop 'pretty-fying' lies so their section of the Hall of Shame will expand to well, shameless proportions.



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