Opinions about branding by Dr. Dannielle Blumenthal

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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Why Internal Communications Doesn't Get Funded


The following is a comment I posted regarding the 2011 Best Places to Work leadership analysis published by the Partnership for Public Service:


What puzzles me is that we know very well how important it is and yet we don't fund or staff it to the same extent as external communications. How would you explain that?


For my part I agree with those who say that all dysfunctionality ultimately makes some rational sense, you just have to find out what is being achieved through the dysfunction.


  • In the private sector - the goal is to make money - and the equation of inspired employees to higher productivity is easier to make: Happy pizza makers make more pizza and they don't spit in it either. (Though this is not 100% perfect either because leaders hate it when they can't control what employees think of them and internal communications forces a dialogue).
  • In the public sector - the goal is - what exactly? On a certain level mission performance is a goal, true. But performing the mission gets people angry, too. I think agencies can't figure out how to handle disagreement in a way that keeps them out of the Washington Post and so they generally try not to say too much. And they fear that open dissension in the ranks will undermine the chain of command and lead to insubordination, potentially jeopardizing the mission, funding, etc.
The TSA is a great example of this. I'm not justifying patdowns of 4-year-olds. But I do understand that terrorists are shoving plastic bombs into their bodies (read the newspaper) in an effort to escape metal detectors. As an American citizen I appreciate that we have to be paranoid to stave off the inevitable as long as possible. And as a former employee of DHS (CBP) I know how passionate the officers are about what they do. I know they stay up at night worrying that they will be the weak link in the chain that let the terrorist in. 


That said, if I were an employee of the TSA and disagreed with their policies I'm sure they would not want me talking about it openly, either internally or externally, because some of these must be very hard to follow.


Ultimately to me what it comes down to is - set a goal - find a way to get to the goal - course-correct if it's not working.  Clearly with respect to internal communications it hasn't been leveraged enough in government organizations.