Tag Archive: Employee Communications

Why, oh why do these things happen to me?” — Rabbit

Their cups are always half-empty.


They don’t understand, Goldilocks. Never will anything be quite right.

When they were kids, their favorite Winnie the Pooh characters were either Eeyore or Rabbit, when once again he was lamenting his state of life.

They are known as “Gloomy Gus” or “Negative Nancy” in the workplace.

And please, o’ please … never put them in charge of managing people.

The reason? Whatever is accomplished is never good enough, and whatever subordinate shortcomings are exhibited become highlighted and immediately pounced upon.

These people are downers, the Human Barbiturates.

Human Barbiturates vs. Clinical Depression

The right-brain author of Almost DailyBrett thankfully will never be confused with a highly degreed-psychologist.

Based upon limited reading, it seems that clinical depression is characterized by episodes and inflicts a certain percentage of the population for a particular period of time. It can be and is treated. Hopefully, these people can return to healthy and happy lives.

Human Barbiturates are always in a down mood, regardless of the circumstances. If an organization is run like a business, they are unhappy. If the very same organization is governed by a labor friendly collective bargaining agreement, they are equally bummed out.

In fact, they are always bummed out. Nothing is right. Nothing will ever be right. If you don’t believe me, just ask them.


Why is the presence of Human Barbiturates a matter of concern? Why should any blog focused on communications choreography even care about these homo-sapien downers?

The reason is these individuals can become a cancer within an organization, dragging anybody and everybody who comes into contact with them into the abyss.

No PR pro in her or his right mind would put these poor sods in a front-man role, serving as the point of entry for critical stakeholders. Naturally, they should be buried in any organization. That is not to say that they can’t still cause damage.

Let’s pretend you are running employee communications for a privately held or publicly traded corporation. Your job is to use conventional and digital tools to promote morale. Your job is just that much tougher if Gloomy Gus or Negative Nancy is undermining your story, and with it management, at the water cooler.

Don’t try to satisfy the Human Barbiturates because you can’t. These people really need a new start, but keep in mind they will spread their human Valium to another organization. At least they will be someone else’s problem.

Gloomy Gus or Negative Nancy As Your Boss?

“Never wait or hesitate Get in kid, before it’s too late You may never get another chance ‘Cos youth a mask but it don’t last live it long and live it fast” – Rod Stewart, The Killing of Georgie, Part I and II

You know instinctively that life is short. You want to live out your days and nights with as much gusto as you can.

Except you have a Human Barbiturate as a boss, or to be more precise, a bosshole.


The Edelman Trust Barometer has consistently reported that “informed publics” around the globe are more willing to do business with companies that treat their employees with dignity and respect. It stands to reason that enlightened management would never turn over supervisorial decisions to Human Barbiturates.

Can employees ever satisfy those who will never be satisfied? You know the answer.

If Human Barbiturates always bitch, moan, whine and complain in the break room, texting and emailing, their behavior is compounded and magnified if they are selected for managerial positions.

Let’s just make the call here and now: Human Barbiturates should never be assigned to the management of people.

They should never be the face of any organization.

If hired, their talent must clearly outweigh their potential negative influence on an organization’s morale.

Otherwise, they are nothing more and nothing less than downers that become the subject of behind-the-back conversation, and maybe even ridicule.

When it comes to Human Barbiturates, it’s best for an organization to “Just Say, ‘No.'”









In the age of the “forward” button on the Microsoft Outlook toolbar, there is no such thing as a family letter for major publicly traded corporations, particularly one with more than 300,000 employees, $114 billion in revenues and $98 billion in market capitalization.

So if this truth is indivisible, you might as well treat an employee letter as any other public transmission to Wall Street, your customers, your partners, your suppliers, both the financial (buy and sell side) and the market analyst communities and of course the media.

Let’s face it, Hewlett-Packard through no fault of its own fired the shot Hurd around the tech world Friday with the stunning news that Mark Hurd was being removed as CEO. The cause was the announced falsification of expense reports in a sexual harassment case involving a very good-looking 50-year-old marketer by the name of Jodie Fisher.http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703309704575413663370670900.html

There will be those who will criticize HP’s handling of this fire drill, and only time will tell how well they handled the damage. The Almost DailyBrett immediate take was the company was smart and SEC-compliant in immediately announcing the stunning development. http://www.hp.com/hpinfo/newsroom/press/2010/100806a.html Included in that announcement was an update on the upcoming third quarter results on both a GAAP and non-GAAP (pro forma) basis as well as using the same metrics for the 2010 fiscal year. The first indication of the success of this strategy will be revealed in the first few hours of trading on Monday.

(Almost DailyBrett note: HPQ was taking a 7 percent hair cut around noon EDT on Monday…pretty much what you would expect).

The company announced that a very familiar name, company CFO Cathie Lesjak, would serve as interim CEO, even though she is not seeking the job on a full-time basis. A global search, including candidates both inside and outside HP, has commenced (no reason to introduce another Carly Fiorina into the mix).

Included in the strategy was Lesjak’s letter to employees, which she knew would be leaked in nanoseconds. The obvious purpose was not just to prop up morale and foster retention of the best and the brightest, but to reassure investors, including all of those employees with ESPP (Employee Stock Purchase Plans) and stock options.  http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704182304575416002591565396.html

“While this news is unexpected, HP remains in an exceptionally strong position both financially and in the marketplace,” she was quoted in the letter. “It is essential, however, that we remain focused and continue to achieve – if not exceed – our operational and financial objectives.

“…As we regularly remind all employees, each of us is expected to adhere strictly to the Standards of Business Conduct in all of our business dealings and relationships. This expectation applies with even greater force to HP’s CEO and other senior executives who, given their positions, must set the highest standard for professional and personal conduct. The investigation that was conducted revealed that Mark had failed to meet this standard.

(There is probably no better time in HP’s history to remind employees that the rules apply to everyone, including well compensated CEOs).

“We recognize that this change in leadership is unexpected news. We also know that HP’s success in recent years is due to the collective efforts and hard work of more than 300,000 talented employees who have formulated far-reaching strategies and achieved our objectives better than anyone else in the industry.

(Good time to work on retention in the face of a morale-impacting, confidence-shaking announcement)

“…In closing, I would like to thank each of you for your contributions to HP, and to ask that in the weeks and months to come we do everything to ensure that HP’s future, like its past, is one of innovation, operational excellence, and the delivery of world-class products and services.”

(Almost DailyBrett postscript: Ms. Jodie Fisher says ex-cathedra that her relationship with Mark Hurd was not sexual…and yet a sexual harassment claim and falsified expense reports. This one is difficult to believe.) http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/08/08/AR2010080800296.html?wpisrc=nl_headline

Almost DailyBrett editor’s note: The following open letter is written to a long-time colleague, who in her own words feels like “fish out of water.” She is presently making the seismic shift from a successful career as a reporter/editor for three regional newspapers to becoming a public relations executive for the first time. Her name, venue and present and past employers will remain confidential, but I will share my humble advice to her on the chance it may help other journalists in making a similar career change.

Even though many of your Fourth Estate colleagues and friends may chide you for abandoning your virtues and taking the plunge to the dark side, keep in mind that most of them are simply envious of your courage and opportunities. Many newspapers will not survive the year, let alone the decade. You have made a proactive change that has the potential of being much more lucrative than if you merely stayed the course.

Keep in mind that not all journalists are cut out to be good public relations “flacks.” Yes, there are the same demands associated with making deadlines, exercising news judgment, getting your facts straight and applying the same journalistic techniques (e.g. adherence to AP style), but that is where the majority of the similarities end.

Now that you have made the switch, here are a few techniques that will hopefully lead to a successful transition to the bright lights of the dark side:

● Your former colleagues at your previous publications are not your friends, especially if they are covering your client. They are now friendly and skeptical (hopefully not cynical) adversaries, but adversaries nonetheless. What you say to them, even in a casual conversation, can be misquoted. You are now a spokesperson for your client, and your client signs your pay check.

● When working with reporters, just assume that everything is “on the record.” Avoid going on “deep background” or the rare instances of employing “off the record” for your conversations. If you assume that everything is “on the record” there will be no misunderstandings and naturally you will be much more disciplined with your words.

● Never be afraid to respond with “I don’t know.” Ask the reporter about her or his deadline and get back as soon as you can with the information that is required in the way that you want to present it. The old joke is: “How many press secretaries does it take to change a light bulb?” The answer is: “I don’t know, but I will find out for you.”

● Only approach reporters to pitch a story that is legitimate news. As a reporter, you inevitably rolled your eyes (if not a stronger reaction) when a flack approached you and wasted your time with a “news story” that didn’t pass the giggle test. The declining number of reporters that remain are inundated with pitches; make every one of your pitches count. One of the toughest parts of your job will be telling your internal clients that their activity is simply not newsworthy.

● As you well know lying is not an option. Having said that, managing information is your job. How a message is developed, how it is presented and when it is made public is what you are being paid to manage. Reporters refer to this technique as “spin control.” I call it managing information for the benefit of your client.

● Your job is 24-7-365. A crisis can occur at any time of day or night. I have taken reporter calls at 1:30 am and before the alarm goes off in the morning. When someone calls and says, “Gee, I hate calling you at home…” you are now on the record. The trick is to be always prepared to respond, while maintaining a healthy work-life balance…easier said than done. I rarely consumed a second beer or glass of wine, particularly during my service as the press secretary to the Governor of California, knowing full well that a genuine crisis could occur at any time of the day or night.

● Crisis communications is not a manual or a three-ring binder (even though key contact information is vital). Instead it is who, what, where, why and how are you going to make it right. Remember when it comes to bad news (and there will be bad news), you can make the disclosure or let someone else (an adversary, competitor, enemy) make it for you. This choice should be easy: manage or be managed.

● Looking at a financial statement, PR should not be seen as “SG&A” or Selling, General and Administrative (an expense) unless you want an unsympathetic Finance Department to zero out or greatly reduce your department. Instead, you need to demonstrate ROI so that your role is seen as positively contributing to the top line (revenues) and contributing to the expansion of gross margin and ultimately the bottom line. The key here is to document everything that you are doing for your client. Aligning your department with Sales, Marketing and in the case of publicly traded companies, the CFO, IR and Legal, is battle-tested job protection.

● Don’t be trapped into just using conventional tools to do your job. Pitching reporters, writing contributed articles, researching editorial calendars and issuing news releases still are effective in the second decade of the 21st Century. The thinning of the journalistic ranks means that self-publishing and using digital tools (e.g. blogging, podcasting, webcasting, social media) are absolutely critical to establishing thought leadership in your field. It is your job to convince management of this truth.

● Don’t allow the perception of your success or failure be dependent on the local paper that your superiors read every morning. You need to feed this 300-pound gorilla, but at the same time the trade publications, bloggers in your company’s field and of course your own self-publishing need to receive equal, if not greater attention.

● You would be wise to remind management that an organization’s most valuable asset is not bricks and mortar, fancy machines, but those women and men who leave each night and hopefully come back in the morning. Naturally, the focus is on customers and shareholders…and this is justified…but employees are just as important, if not more important, to the bottom line.

You have been honest about your feelings when you described yourself as a “fish out of water.” This is normal. Look at it another way: This is an important reset in your life that employs all of your professional skills in a different way. You respect your employer. They have a great story to tell. Go out and tell that story in the best way possible and let the chips fall as they may. This is an exciting time of your life and a challenging new opportunity.

Embrace the spirit of Carpe Diem and seize the day.


When it comes to the most influential target audiences for publicly traded companies, they can be essentially boiled down to the acronym “CEO”: Customers, Employees and Owners.

Company executives have long championed “serving customers” and “creating shareholder value” and they should continue as these two groups drive revenues and enhance market capitalization. Unfortunately the same level of enthusiasm is rarely afforded to a company’s number one asset, its employees.

One obvious reason is that the care and feeding of employees represents the lion’s share of the expense side of the ledger. These costs are not just salaries, but a growing array of benefits, incentives and government mandates (e.g. parental leave).

Despite this overall lack of attention on “E,” the nation is nonetheless transfixed on the stubborn 9.7 percent unemployment number, particularly that “only” 36,000 lost their jobs in February. The U.S Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a total of 14.9 million unemployed; 8.8 million forced to work part-time out of economy necessity and 1.2 million discouraged workers, who don’t believe a job exists for them http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.nr0.htm Add it all up and we are talking about 25 million unhappy people in a nation of 300 million.

We should also keep in mind that DOL also reported that 138 million Americans are working. Many of these workers are saddled with lousy bosses or have limited upward mobility and feel trapped in their jobs because of the nearly double-digit unemployment and the lack of alternatives. This scenario seems to be gradually changing, which means that the “E” for employees could soon be receiving comparable executive attention, if not love, as the “C” for customers and the “O” for shareholders.

Failing to attract or losing the best and the brightest is extremely costly to companies. I have seen figures up to $60,000 to replace each management or high-talent employee, when search, training and lost productivity is included in the equation. For example, technology companies are particularly vulnerable to the potential loss of software and/or hardware engineers. Financial services firms rely on investment bankers, fiscal analysts, accountants and controllers with MBAs to demonstrate gravitas to clients.

So what should companies do in this shifting economic environment to provide for the proper care and feeding of their valuable employees?

● Don’t wait for “retention” to become a major problem; make it a priority right now. The recession is over and the choppy recovery has begun. This is the time to challenge your employees, add to their responsibilities, listen to their concerns, provide them with growth paths and let them know they are key players in the success of the company. Before going out and recruiting away employees from competitors, companies should be concerned about protecting their “base” employees from rival cherry pickers.

● Engage and over-communicate with employees, including using low-grade technology in the form of CEO all-hands meetings with PowerPoint graphics. The purpose is to not only share business strategies with employees, but to listen and hear their concerns as well. Use corporate intranets to publish stories, announcements and blogs about the company’s direction and accomplishments. Ditto for social media, encouraging employees to read about the company and its brand-building activities via Twitter, LinkedIn.com, Facebook and others.

● View Investor Relations, Corporate Public Relations and Employee Communications as being linked. A high percentage of employees in publicly traded companies, particularly technology and biotech, participate in ESPP (Employee Stock Purchase Plans) and stock option programs. They are very interested and savvy investors in the company’s stock and that contributes to market cap. Corporate positioning should be outward to investors, customers, suppliers, partners, analysts and media, and also inward to investing and contributing employees.

● Consider having Investor Relations, Corporate Public Relations and Employee Communications report to the Chief Financial Officer. In many cases Employee Communications reports to Human Resources, which used to make some sense, but becomes less so with even greater SEC scrutiny on fair-disclosure issues. Naturally, Employee Communications should interact regularly with HR, particularly on benefits, but the CFO holds more sway on investor issues, corporate development, strategic acquisitions/integration and the reasons behind restructurings and layoffs.

● Sweat the details when it comes to the “management style” of middle managers. Do they micromanage? Are they arrogant, unreceptive and simply fail to listen and hear legitimate concerns? Do they have their own agendas? Should they be managing people in the first place? Let’s face it; bad bosses will eventually erode morale and prompt more good people to run for the exits, particularly in an expanding economy creating new opportunities.

As both a physical and economic spring returns to the landscape, it is time to make the care and feeding of employees a major priority. Cherry picking is a growth industry. The best defense is a good offense. It’s time to make employee communications a priority.

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