Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Transparency, Sort of

On the communications theme, I spent today in three meetings (clones of one another) as our merger leadership gave presentations to offer our staff the opportunity to understand what is happening as we integrate and also allow questions. Our staff? the ones who regularly beat down our doors, grab us in hallways, accost us at the water cooler, and fill our email boxes? yes those same staff were nearly silent in the Q&A portion.

In my youth and inexperienced days I might have actually thought that meant the presentations were so thorough they answered all the questions.

Ah youth.

About 10 years ago, when I remained a little innocent and ignorant of group dynamics I may have thought people were just not engaged or interested.

Ah ignorance.

But today, I know that it comes down to how people function - both culturally within the organization and due to their own fears and inhibitions. Why else would you see a room fill to standing capacity but yet no one will take the 20 seats still available in the front row? Why else would you hear questions as people entered the room as they spoke to their buddies, and questions as they exited the room - again to their buddies - but silence when an opportunity was presented to ask something.

As the communications professional in the room, it's usually a bad idea for me to ask questions - I look like a corporate plant, put there to lob softball questions at the speakers and be a general kiss-ass. But eventually I did ask one, just because there was at least one burning question that no one else was asking.

It is not easy to convince leaders that transparency and sincerity in communications is a requirement - especially in times of change - but we did convince them and they are here to offer information. It is not easy to convince the MERGER company that our organization is used to getting lots of information and having a stake or ownership role in every decision ... they are used to consensus processes, not top-down led direction. And if everyone keeps their mouths shut at each of these meetings, we'll never convince them of that.

So today, we made a stab at promoting Transparency...sort of.

And it worked, sort of.

And now I have to work really really hard to convince the leaders to do it again, and again, and again.

I wish the staff would help me out with this a bit. But I'm getting used to scaling the wall alone.


DUTA said...

Well, these are not good times for asking questions; people are afraid of loosing their job. Afer all, merging is sometime one sep before liquidation.

DUTA said...

sorry, my typwriter has problems with the letter 't' and 's'

In the last line of my comment it should read: sometimes, step

Wenderina said...

Oh Duta - please - don't say that out loud. But yes, I'm sure that is the case. What astonished me most though was that the people who finally stood to ask questions were more likely to be the bottom of the career ladder, yet they had the guts to ask the bigger questions about the organization. Good for them!

Anonymous said...

And sometimes people just need a little time to actually absorb what they were just told before it makes sense to them. I'm like that, and only after I've gotten to that point will I have questions or comments. Once in a while it all comes together quickly and I can ask a question right away, but really, I'm just a person who needs to take the time to reflect on information before reacting to it.

Wenderina said...

Pinklea - another astute comment, but stop making excuses for these people. There were over 100 in the room, not all of them need time, and many of them walk right out the door and comment, they just won't do it in place. I guess, while I am an anxiety ridden soul down to my toes and prefer to drive from behind the curtain more than be out in front, I feel like this is also the time to step up, stand out, and be noticed rather than trying to hide under the covers.

AmyBow said...

i love when the feeback is, "well this didn't seem like the appropriate venue to ask my question"; instead the watercooler - perfect place to get my question answered with the off-the-wall answer that will fuel my paranoia:)

erinalberty said...

I'm glad I work in the business of transparency, where my coworkers ask tough questions in office meetings. But I usually don't.