Consider these following scenarios -
- A large IT organization decides to rewire its performance management system and sends out a communication stating revised roles and levels in their hierarchy. It triggers a huge backlash as employees feel shortchanged. Many think their career has moved a few steps backward. The company witnesses an exodus of talent. Employees take to social media to vent their anger and it hurts the company’s image. What caused this tension and how could the internal communicator have coached the leadership on the messages and the way it needs to be communicated?
- The following message went to employees on an internal security breach. “Our internal systems have tracked employees sending company confidential material outside to personal e-mail IDs. This is a serious breach and goes against our policies. Employees who are found to be guilty will be terminated without notice”. How do you think employees felt about the message? What kind of message would have worked best in this case?
- The economic recession has hit and a large data storage company is downsizing. Unlike other organizations that usher the exiting staff to the door without giving them any opportunity to take say their goodbyes this company provides every employee with a memory stick and invites them to copy all the information they need before they go. This move is appreciated and due to their openness and trust this company soon features among the top employers in the country. How does this action become so powerful? What worked in the organization’s favor?
A couple of weeks ago I attended a certificate course on Transactional Analysis or TA, a stream of psychotherapy developed by Dr. Eric Berne, a renowned author and practitioner. He propounded that people have three ego states and as long as transactions (how he defined every interaction) were complementary, the engagement can continue without a break. If the transactions were crossed (between different ego states) it led to a breakdown until one of individuals shifted his or her ego state and continued the conversation. Lastly, he highlighted that when ulterior messages are sent (one communication with two pieces of messages – one social and one psychological) the transaction occurs in the latter part. He also articulated our need for strokes (units of recognition) that can be positive/negative, verbal/non-verbal and conditional/non-conditional. Overall, the philosophy of TA highlights that everyone is born to do good and keeping transactions complementary can lead to a better life and world.
So what has TA got to do with internal communications? Lots I think. The principles of TA are valid within organizations (top-down, collaboration, peer to peer conversations) and for interpersonal relations (leader/manager-employee interactions) and if internal communicators can understand the nuances, the greater the chances of improving what and how messages get communicated. TA can also be viewed in the context of rewards and recognitions within organizations – how we provide positive encouragement and avoid ulterior messages cropping into our performance management systems.
If you were to analyze the scenarios above from a transactional analysis lens you would notice that in the first case the conversation is crossed with the organization obviously not taking employees into confidence about the performance management system. Likewise, in the second case the organization talks down and is addressing employees from a Parent ego state resulting in resentment. In the final case, the organization’s actions demonstrate trust even during a difficult situation. By treating exiting employees with positive intent enhances their reputation.
I believe internal communications can influence the ways we value employees, the choice of words we use and how we coach leaders to effectively communicate. More importantly, deciding which ego state to send the communication from and identifying what triggers will motivate or dissuade staff in taking action that matters.
What do you think?
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