How “Shooting the Messenger” Can Negatively Impact Your Culture and Success

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Culture July 15, 2018

How “Shooting the Messenger” Can Negatively Impact Your Culture and Success

Jason Richmond
Jason is passionate about helping large companies embrace outstanding culture. He engages with clients by sharing his passion for learning and instilling a sense of leadership and confidence with everyone.

As young children we are taught not to tattle or gossip on others or ourselves. As we mature, there’s an obvious discernment between gossip and necessary information- and yet to an extent we still fear the backlash that’s associated with informing those in charge of possible problems, either of an immediate nature or on the horizon.

Some may see this as a positive- effectively eliminating the water cooler chatter and distracting noise around an office. Others, however, understand the need for transparency of issues both good and bad- without fear of “shooting the messenger” in the process.

Tell Me More…”

Chris Baggaley, Senior Vice President of Sales for the Auto Club of Southern California, suggests that the best approach is always transparency,  “I want my employees to know that they can come to me no matter the issue without fear of repercussions for doing so. I try to listen and respond with “tell me more” so we can get down to the nitty gritty of what happened, how did it happen and most importantly, how are we going to fix it.”

Baggaley continues, “I’d rather get the straight story over 2-3 various versions of the truth from different people because they’re simply trying to tell me what I want to hear and not truly want I need to hear. It hurts both performance and the culture when employees feel they can only be transparent with positive news.”

Finding Solutions

One reason that transparency in the workplace is so important is that it allows the leadership team to recognize problems as they arise, address them and implement new protocols to ensure they don’t happen again. “Without creating a culture of understanding and openness, management may not become aware of an issue until it’s too late, which hurts us both immediately and down the road. I want to be able to tackle problems in the moment and put procedures into place so they don’t happen again- finding a solution is always better than avoiding it.”

Making It a Positive

To reinforce the concept of a welcoming and transparent culture, leader can turn the actions into a positive by offering roundtable meetings to address current concerns in a safe space without punishment for speaking out. Another way is to form teams or task individual employees with taking ownership of finding a solution to the problems they brought forth. By doing so you are empowering team members to 1) keep an open flow of communication and transparency throughout the company and 2) teaching them the valuable lesson of coming to the table with not just an issue- but a solution to tackle it head on.

For the SVP of Sales, the pillars of culture are based on a simple mission, supported by leaders and team members that believe in the goals and objectives, and ultimately are reinforced by straightforward performance incentives and systems. Ultimately, the sees shooting the messenger as a performance killer, helping to distract his team from the goals ahead- and the culture that helps strengthen their growth.