You think your reputation is excellent. After all:
- Your recruitment video is top-notch.
- Your "brand ambassadors" are the best on campus.
- Your marketing materials are beyond compare.
But your news coverage is kind of...pesky. Employees "talking trash," who never took their case to you before "spilling it."
Consider these examples:
- The U.S. Customs and Border Protection employee who told the press that the agency isn't ready to handle Ebola.
- The U.S. Secret Service employee who said that the agency is "collapsing."
- The New York Federal Reserve employee who said her superiors discouraged her from doing her regulatory job.
How can you avoid these kinds of disasters? It boils down to common sense, but you have to overcome your natural biases first. Follow these steps:
- Change the organizational communication paradigm from "mostly talking" to "mostly listening." Reputation depends on perception, and if employees are saying negative things about your organization, you will be perceived badly. You're better off if they say them to you first.
- Upend the hierarchy, and privilege input from the lowest ranks first. Remember that the employee closest to the action - i.e., the operational reality of the organization - is not the employee who makes the most money or has the highest status. You depend on these people as sources of intelligence. Do not be foolish and ignore or marginalize them because they don't sit in the C-suite.
- Reward employees for reporting their concerns. Nobody wants to lose their job by being branded a troublemaker. Unfortunately, too often that is exactly the case - when people speak up, they get hammered. You have the power to change that easily, by establishing formal channels that reward people who provide information that helps to keep the organization functioning properly.
All of the above must be carefully considered. You don't want to wind up with a free-for-all, an endless gripe session, or a negative work environment. But you do want to harness and leverage the most valuable resource you have - your employees.
Remember that people are your business and your brand. They have a stake in your success - it is their success. And they want to work with you to preserve it.
Disclaimer: This blog is written by Dannielle Blumenthal in her personal capacity. The opinions expressed here are the author's own and do not reflect the view of the National Archives and Records Administration, or the United States government. Photo by Art G. via Flickr.