bobbie smith

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Friday, May 18, 2012

"We can't tell them that."

The scenario:
A project is delayed. Employees haven't heard any updates in about a month and the manager realizes he's 'got to get something out soon' because his boss has been asking what's going on.

Manager: I need a draft message for the project update. How soon can you get it to me?
Communications Officer: How about tomorrow?
Manager: I kind of need it today some time.
Communications Officer: How about today?
Manager: Okay good. 
Communications Officer: So the reason for the delay is other projects took priority but now it's time to return to this one, right?
Manager: "We can't tell them that." 
Communications Officer: Why not?
Manager: Well because it looks bad.

I hear those words from a senior manager or executive and sigh.
There are precious few things we truly "CAN'T" tell employees:
  • private information about other employees
  • financially-sensitive information
  • the CEO's kid's cellphone number
  • and there are more...
However, usually when managers say they can't share something with employees, it almost always mean either: 
  • they are afraid of something, usually the truth,
  • they don't want to look bad,
  • they don't want employees to know that somewhere along the way, management missed something, AKA made a mistake,
  • they don't understand what employees really need.
Employees need to know the real story. They will find out anyway. There is never ever an advantage to hiding information from them. In fact, the disadvantage of trying to hide info from them is the damage to trust once they figure it out...and trust me...they will. They always do.

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