How open is too open?

IT Business, Legal
1 Comment

The other day you got to read about some motivational buffoonery that is often implemented in the IT field, how to demoralize your troops with a self-congratulating motivational speaker that isn’t qualified to work in this field to begin with. In case you are not motivated to read it, in a nutshell: Don’t put idiots in front of your staff because they are smarter than that and will resent you.

The same principle of “People that work here aren’t fools..” applies to the communication on corporate change. Takeover. Sale. Bankruptcy. Financial problems. High profile layoffs, legal problems, going concerns. Larger companies have to state their going concerns (or in plain terms “ah, crap”) every quarter in their financial paperwork, but smaller companies resort to a smaller and more inappropriate way of doing this: bullshit through rumors. That’s the business term for it, trust me, I went to a business school.

How does BTR work? Well, instead of being honest and up front with your staff, you call in a meeting and just start dropping hints about what is coming without being explicitly clear about it. Things like, “Our property has appreciated 800% over the past three years, so we will have some realtors around to give us an idea of exactly what its worth. Oh, I am also going to be flying to New York for about a week on business, in my absence Marcy will run the operations.” Then Marcy takes the post after the big boss leaves and she gets to answer the question if we’re for sale. She denies it, because even she may not know, meanwhile the big boss starts showing up less and less at the office. Rumors start to fly, and there is nothing like a business that is held together by collective fear of uncertainty.

Lesson: Never bs your people. They are on your side. Screw them once and you have enemies for life, making it virtually certain you can’t come back to the same market.

Is it natural for business owners to have to lie? Well, kindda; maybe not be as forthcoming about whats going on? Sure. You don’t want to break a deal just because the rumors get out because you spelled out every detail of the upcoming transaction. You also don’t want your best people looking for a new job because the last deal you spoke so highly of fell through and now they don’t get their golden parachutes. But there is a happy middle. For example, I always say we are not for sale. I always say there is no interest in going public. Knowing full well that I would catapult OWN to the moon if the price were right. This is something that is discussed though, not swept under the rug. Are you in a for profit business? Say it. Does the property you sit on have an offer on it that is higher than the profits the business will generate over the next five years? Sell it. But don’t pull dirty tricks when you do it. Don’t send your 162 workers home for refurbishments for a week, and then a day later announce that you’ve sold the biz, closed operations and here’s two months salaries — good luck finding jobs in the tourist area during off season, we’re going to Bahamas!

That is exactly what Dolly Parton did, and its what IT companies do all the time, completely preoccupied with politics, scheming and moving all the while not having any respect for people that work for them. We’re not in days of Al Chainsaw anymore, throw that stale “Big Tales From Management Nightmares” book out the window and treat people right. Food for thought: Al “Chainsaw” Dunlap guys are no longer around, but office shootings are on the rise.

One Response to How open is too open?

  1. karlp says:

    My last “real” job, before going into consulting, involved constant deals. Buying and selling companies, starting new ventures, opening offices in other states.

    As in all business, 90% of the ideas never went anywhere and the remaining 10% determined the future of the organization.

    We met behind closed doors a lot so that the rumuor mill wouldn’t go wild about that 90% that turned out to be nothing.

    But the biggest hobby in business is:

    Watching the boss(es).

    If you don’t fill in the blanks for people, they’ll fill ’em in themselves.

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