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Use HR To Stop Corporate Spin

I don’t know if you’ve heard but we’ve got something going on here called a recession. I think I may have heard about it during a football game where, during a break in action, that quirky fellow who makes all the jokes alluded to it. Something about stock portfolios, credit crunching and mortgage collapses? Is any of this sounding familiar?

Well, I certainly hope so. You haven’t been able to go anywhere without hearing about it.

In the corporate world, it is the silent scream that everyone is vocalizing everyday. If you come out of a meeting with top management brass, you get asked “So, how did that go?” Or maybe, “What’s up with the top dogs?” All silently and secretly asking you to tell them everything is going to be okay, everything will be just fine. Don’t you worry guys, we are going to be good.

In economic times like these, it can be extremely difficult to come out of these meetings with that message. And my message is simple…

Don’t Spin The News (Good Or Bad)

The easiest way in the world to answer those questions is to say it was no big deal, everything is fine right now and to get back to work.

Stop that.

When people hear that, they come to their own conclusions. Some of it will be based on your reputation and how honest you’ve been before but most of it will be based on the fact that they want to digest what could possibly happen.

The best possible thing you can do in all situations (good or bad) is to be a transparent as possible. Transparent to the point of discomfort. It is something I have been a strong advocate of since I started in HR.

HR really needs to be on the leading edge of killing corporate spinsters and letting the leaders of the company speak plainly and clearly about the challenges facing the business. Unfortunately, HR often wants to let managers off the hook by allowing cop-out words such as “changes” in the place of “layoffs” or “considerable” in the place of “serious.” Worse, they may want to get their hands on the memo or outline and legalese the crap out of it. I couldn’t think of a worse thing to do.

Reasons To Not Be Transparent Usually Suck

I know you are all used to super professional language on this blog so I pulled out the suck word to demonstrate how absolutely foolish most of the reasoning behind not being transparent:

  1. You’re protecting your employees — You’re not protecting anyone. People are already talking about it and the one’s who aren’t either don’t matter, don’t care or are in denial.
  2. You don’t want to lose productivity -Do you not think that you are already allowing productivity to go down thanks to rumor taking over your employment base?
  3. That wouldn’t work here — Have you asked your employees how many of them want to be kept in the dark about issues surrounding your business?
  4. People could use the information against us — So are they not using the rumors they have against you currently? If an employee is going to trash you, wouldn’t you rather it be the truth?
  5. We may say something stupid — And? You are trying to communicate to employees and do the right thing. Your employees will give you a break. Get over it!

In most instances, the reason to not be transparent is to protect the leader or manager from something that is uncomfortable for them.

In Short, Create Reasonable Expectations

When you spin news and reality looks different, people stop trusting you and assume you’re spinning everything. You’ve heard the story of the boy that cried wolf? How about the story about the CEO that cried “We’re doing great”?

If you’re doing great, say it. If you’re not doing great, say it. Let your employees understand the big picture. Let them help you achieve your big picture goals.

When you talk honestly, without spin, your employees will know it. Don’t do it. And if you are in HR, you should be on the front lines of stopping this.

By Lance Haun

Strategy for The Starr Conspiracy. Former HR pro. Portland guy (Go Blazers!) and WSU alum (Go Cougs!). I get to write about what I want here.

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