The article can also be read on Regions Business Magazine. (http://philadelphia.regionsbusiness.com/)
Your phone screen lights up as a news notification appears: “President gives address from White House.”
Turning to your computer to launch the Internet browser, you’re greeted by a homepage full of headlines saturated with disaster, destruction — and, of course, “shocking” reality TV revelations.
A perfunctory glance at Facebook finds the social media sector awash with heated discussion about the latest high-profile trial.
All this, and you’ve only been sitting at your desk for three minutes.
As technology has become more omnipresent, so too has media coverage of current events, turning them into consumable sound bites and one-line blurbs to be shared, retweeted, and dropped into conversation.
With Google Alerts and social media feeds cropping up throughout the day, political and diplomatic concerns have become a constant presence in the workplace, giving us all ample time to internalize the atmosphere of confusion and speculation that can accompany recent events such as the Syrian conflict and government shutdown.
The influence of this constant, rapid-fire reportage extends beyond the obvious, affecting your professional life in surprising ways as parallels emerge between your company’s internal affairs and our country’s international affairs.
Whether the context is corporate or diplomatic, there’s no denying the power of the rumor mill to generate bouts of misinformation-driven panic.
The mechanism at work is the same when you’re anxiously wondering how much truth is in the rumor about departmental downsizing as when you’re reading online commentary debating Assad’s next move. There may be some credibility in either case, but the speculative nature of that kind of “news” leaves plenty of room for unfounded assumptions and good old-fashioned gossip, too.
Rumors and conjecture have a way of taking root in the absence of direct, from-the-source statements, and it’s a dangerous fact of human nature that gossip is often just as, if not more, compelling than truth.
That’s why it’s so important, in the business realm as in many others, to communicate news and relevant information promptly, clearly, and responsibly. Rumors are only natural, but to avoid widespread misconceptions about the state of affairs within your organization, make sure leadership personnel are prepared to dispel them before things get out of hand.
To that end, it’s just as essential that company leadership present a united front in providing accessible and reliable information for employees — and outside interests.
Such a precaution will ensure that, when it comes to the big issues, there’ll be little room for misinterpretation, and therefore less cause for unpleasant surprises.
Just think back to recent developments in foreign affairs: the existence of a chemical weapons arsenal in Syria was still being considered “questionable” in U.S. media mere weeks ago, despite the fact that French and British teams had confirmed the use of Sarin gas as early as June. Lacking a decisive word on the matter, many Americans couldn’t have predicted two months back that the question of military intervention would be raised.
Mixed information opens the doors to mistrust and confusion in a professional setting as well, so it’s vital to make internal materials, such as policy information, memos, career ladder info, and even severance plans accessible to employees.
Communication is one of those professional ideals preached more often than practiced.
In theory, employees of all levels should understand what effects company-wide developments will have for them, but the reality is usually far from that.
Our own political reality, too, is far from achieving that kind of transparency. A habitual refrain from the American public in response to legislation and governmental policy is, “How does that affect me? What does that mean for me in my everyday life?”
The answers to those basic questions often get lost amidst complicated jargon and vague or biased statements from one contingent or another, and the results aren’t at all conducive to a well-functioning democratic process, much less a productive business.
The responsibility for communication is two-part: it’s up to leadership figures to clearly articulate goals, policies, and their possible results, but it’s equally incumbent upon employees to educate and inform themselves.
Most importantly, all should listen to each other.
The need for candid dialogue and intellectual freedoms is universal, and the consequences of ignoring this need can be seen playing out on a horrific, international scale in current media coverage.
In order to prevent disagreements of a personal or ideological nature from becoming antagonistic, cultivate a culture of openness in the workplace, encouraging forums for spirited discussion and constructive criticism.
Genuine feedback should be valued and rewarded, and you should remember that, even if you’re in a position of authority, giving explanations for your own views is conducive to honesty and productivity, and will humanize, rather than undermine, you as a leader.
In addition to encouraging public forums for dialogue, provide resources for safe, private conversations. Make sure everyone is aware of the availability of HR and employee relations staff members for confidential conversations and promote an open-door policy. No one should have misgivings about approaching you with their concerns.
Occasional confusion, dissent, and even conflict are inevitable components in any collaborative process, but the way you handle these issues — with respect and candor — will determine the success of your leadership.
Cut through the noise of conjecture and confusion with clear directives, decisive action, and consideration for the input of your peers.
Do that and you’ll be miles ahead of your political counterparts on this one.
Over the past 18 years, Kelly has successfully coached business leaders and people from all walks of life to reach their highest potential. With a Master’s in counseling, professional coach and mediation certifications, and 20 years of Human Resources experience, she has successfully helped others define their dreams and create pathways to success. She is the creator and owner of 1 Smart Life, LLC a new style of personal coaching with a team of experts in all of life’s challenging areas.