Try to imagine this scenario: You are a BP Oil or Halliburton employee anywhere along the Gulf Coast, attending a friend’s backyard barbecue on a recent Sunday, and in between sips of beer and nibbles of chips and dip, you hear, over and over, “Oh my god, you work for BP!? You must feel awful – what that company has done to this region!” You might answer, “I’m sorry.” You might protest, “No, I have nothing to do with the drilling, I’m in Data Processing.” But let’s face it, you don’t want to be having that conversation. When Saturday Night Live devotes its opening sketch to this issue, you know it is really bad.
Or how about working for Toyota the week another recall or another Federal investigation is announced? Or how about a Goldman Sachs employee in New York anytime the last few weeks?
We know what these companies are doing on the external PR side, because we hear or see it in the news each day. I wonder what they are doing internally. I tried to find info on the web under the company names and “employee relations” and “internal public relations” and found very little.
I suspect that morale is awful, people are gossiping, keeping their heads down and trying to duck for cover. Besides the financial losses and the visible external PR nightmare, think of the productivity and employee loyalty losses these companies suffer in this kind of situation.
I think as much effort must be made on the inside as on the outside, because if we don’t repair damage to relations with our own employees, how would we expect strangers to react any better? Companies need to be clear about what they are doing, and provide employees with specifics on what they can say when asked about the problem. Companies might even provide counseling to employees who are suffering stress over the incident.
With regard to the companies who are subjects of the recent corporate performance issues, if you know specifically what these companies are doing, I’d appreciate hearing from you (firstname.lastname@example.org), and we will all learn more! I’ll publish an update with comments.