How the virus of cynicism is spread in an organization to undermine management and external credibility
”We know that you have all been complaining about the old IT-system. It is slow and unreliable, but now – NOW – our new system will be released. You will get speed, reliability and many new features making it much more useful and relevant than the former system.”
Do you recognize this story?
In that case you are likely to work in one of the many organizations where the corporate newsflow is jokingly compared to Pravda – the erstwhile news agency of the Soviet Union and a paragon of misinformation, glossing over all negative facts and touting the successes and breakthroughs of the regime.
The template is easy to work with. First, the ”we feel your pain” introduction is designed to show involvement. Management has listened to you and wants to help you. Secondly, the future is bright – the new system is much better.
Even more importantly to many corporate staff writers – it’s also easy to get approved by the sources, usually management, making life so much more convenient for them.
It’s a win-win. Management likes it and the writers are in good standing.
Unfortunately, the organization as a whole suffers. The executives lose credibility because the admission of failure comes with a pre-declaration of a new triumph.
Why would anyone believe them when all the old systems, produced and implemented by the very same people and touted as successes beforehand seem to fail?
When the leaders lose credibility, cynicism prevails. The jokes are on the management. The allusion to Pravda is just the beginning. And the lack of credibility will not be saved as an internal secret. It will spread like a virus – originating from the difference between what is told and what is actually done – and will be replicated with each story that carries the same symptoms.
This trend can be reversed by allowing a more critical approach to the stories - addressing the issues instead of glossing them over. It is counter-intuitive, but highly critical or even negative stories often carry the potential to make a real impact by increasing the credibility of management.
This Is Touch was founded to bring the real stories of global corporations to internal and external audiences. Getting films aired on television targets external audiences, but because of the Pravda approach to internal communications prevalent in so many organizations, external media carry much more weight even with employees.
Steen Reeslev is the managing partner of This Is Touch – a company providing television airtime for corporations in the growth markets of Latin-America, Asia, and Africa. Previously he was senior vice president responsible for Group Relations at A.P. Moller-Maersk. This Is Touch is based on experience from A.P. Moller-Maersk. The company produced a large number of films on all aspects of the business. The high quality of the films gave access to airtime on television in more than 30 markets.