Communication Lessons We Can Learn from Popular Brand
Last week a former employee of a popular lifestyle brand decided to share her side of the involuntary termination on social media. The story was detailed, lengthy and one-sided to a messy situation. Letting an employee go is never easy for anyone involved including the employer and employee. I also believe there are three sides to every story: yours, theirs, and the truth which is somewhere in the middle.
I have been a leader of teams almost my entire professional career. Leadership requires a lot of work including communication and continuous self-development. Seeing this story play out publicly on social media makes me cringe because I know there is more to the story. However, there are multiple lessons that small business owners and team members can take away from this situation.
- DO NOT air your personal grievances publicly regardless of the platform. It is not professional and does not benefit you in the long run. It may feel good to vent or share your side of the story and how you were wronged, but that is not how it will be perceived. Perception is the reality. Always take the high road and look for the lesson. Just because you have a platform does not mean you are entitled to share your version of the truth with the world. There are proper legal channels to use if you believe you were wronged.
- Airing grievances publicly put you at risk for defamation of character, libel or slander. No one wants to add a lawsuit and monetary damages to an already tough situation. Social media regardless of the platform leaves a digital footprint that is hard to erase. Do you want this moment to live with you for the rest of your life? Or do you want to learn from it and keep moving forward?
- Do not be passive aggressive. Choose to address the problem with the person in private or let it go. Holding a grudge and subtweeting sub-posting is obvious to everyone else regardless of whether you drop names or not.
- Do not name call. It is extremely unprofessional and indicative of your character.
- Do not makes excuses when you are caught for poor behavior. Own it, acknowledge it, apologize, and state what you will do to make it right.
- Do not take things personally. Choose to see others’ actions and reactions as reflections of them, not you. When you choose this path your life is a lot less stressful and complicated.
- Be humble, see your role in situations and what you contributed to the outcome whether it was good or bad. People treat us how we allow them to.
- Follow through on your word. If you say you will do something, do it. Trust is vital in any relationship and can disappear in an instant. Once you lose it, it is hard to gain it back.
- Give respect automatically and trust that people are doing their best with what they know.
- Earn and keep trust through consistency in words, actions, and results. If you can’t be trusted with the little things, you will not be given the responsibility of larger projects or tasks.
SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS
- It is your responsibility to dictate the responsibilities of the team members you hire and train them. Success starts with your leadership and this is the first step. (NOTE: Consult an HR professional or lawyer to your state on what forms are needed including a Non-Disclosure Agreement and if a Non-Disparagement clause is applicable.)
- It is your responsibility to manage expectations and communicate them clearly and upfront with your team. This means planning ahead, knowing what results you want from your team, and communicating them verbally and/or in writing so they know clearly what is expected of them. Be clear in your expectations by outlining the specific results needed and applicable deadlines.
- If you leave the office for an extended period of time, planned or unplanned, there should be a plan in place of what your team is responsible for in your absence. The sign of a good leader is a team that runs well in their absence without being micromanaged.
- Do not assume your team knows what to do. Assumptions lead to misunderstandings. I notice many times women will ask someone to do something. The team member then understands it as a yes/no option. If you want something done, you must state it directly otherwise you run the risk of it not being done because you presented it as an option.
- You are not able to be upset, reprimand, or apply disciplinary action if you never communicated (verbally and/or writing) what was expected to your team members. In order for them to succeed they need to know what you expect of them before the fact, not after. I prefer putting expectations in writing because it reinforces the verbal discussion and serves as a point of reference for both parties.
- Your team wants to do well.
- If you set a reward regardless of whether it is monetary or not, you need to clearly define the guidelines for how the team member can attain the reward and then deliver on it. Empty promises lead to distrust, resentment, and poor work performance.
- Your team member is not your new BFF!! I cannot emphasize this enough. Too many managers fall into the trap of wanting to desperately be liked and thus do not enforce professional boundaries. There can only be one cook in the kitchen. Sometimes being a boss, leader, SBO can be lonely. Instead build relationships with mentors, coaches, and industry peers at your same professional level. This is crucial for the longevity of your business.
- If you have multiple team members, clearly communicate the chain of command and then abide by it.
- Do not play favorites with team members. Naturally there are team members that you will get along better than others, however, you are required to treat everyone with fairness. Playing favorites only leads to dissension and can destroy the company.
- Do not take advantage of your team members. Respect their time and talents. Provide them the training and coaching they need to succeed. Do not overburden your top performers or they may burnout. Your primary role is to serve your team. When they are valued and appreciated then they treat your clients with the same appreciation.
- You are not above the rules. Team members learn best by what you do not what you say.
- When you need to involuntarily terminate a team member, you are still required to treat them with respect regardless of the offense. This means telling them what they did wrong, what they should have done, documenting all of it, telling them what the repercussion is as a result of the action, and thanking them for their contributions during their time. (NOTE: This is a high-level overview, you should consult with an HR professional or lawyer before proceeding.)
- If you are facing a challenge at work, it is YOUR responsibility to take ownership to fix it.
- You are also responsible for setting your own professional boundaries and communicating them. You cannot expect your boss to know what you need or what does not work for you. This includes asking for help.
- If you are unsure of something look for the answer and/or ask your boss for clarification. Assuming that you know what your boss wants can lead to negative outcomes. Remember you are working together so you want to make sure you are both on the same page.
- Honor your commitments. If you are asked to work at a specific location between set hours, then you are professionally obligated to be there if you want to retain your job, regardless of whether you are being supervised or not. Just because you are salaried or the boss is out of the office does not excuse you from your professional responsibilities. It also is part respecting the wishes of your employer and building trust.
- As a team member, do know that your job responsibilities will change as the company needs change. You are responsible for any new task when asked regardless of whether it was stated up front when you were hired or not.
- Companies are constantly changing regardless of it being a small business or corporation. Being flexible and proactive is a trait that will serve you well as a professional.
- Leave your personal life at the door.
- Have a positive attitude and look for areas where you can help or provide a solution. Being a self-starter is a necessary role for a company of any size. This trait will help you excel and promote within any organization.
- As a team member, make yourself valuable. Look for ways to help make your boss’s job easier instead of waiting to be told what to do. This may include watering the plants in the office. No task is beneath anyone.
- Give your boss grace. They are human and make mistakes just like you. We are all learning together.
In conclusion, communication and respect is vital to the success of any team or business. Keep the communication paths open so you can build strong relationships and succeed together.