In a matter of weeks, Facebook Inc. has gone from stock market darling to Wall Street waif. Between General Motors’ declaration that Facebook ads are worthless and the company’s much-hyped IPO flop, the social media site that once had stakeholders salivating is now mired in a considerable slump.
Amid the glut of bad press, Facebook employees have been surprisingly silent. Recent reports have estimated that the average worker has lost upwards of $800,000 and must continue to sit on sinking shares that they can’t cash in for several months.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the internal shrug-off is a cultural response long in the works. Top Facebook executives took great pains to prepare for a potential drop in stock price at some point, instructing employees to ignore both the good and bad news that would come with the IPO. Whether their foresight will pay off remains to be seen, but the example they set with regard to employee communications is a fine one.
The Business Case for Better Communication
Regardless of your company’s size or industry, tough times are inevitable. Gaps in internal discourse can result in a net drain on time, money and productivity, as well as expose you to risks associated with miscommunication.
Anxious employees have a tendency to fill in their own blanks, and their information may be largely inaccurate. To help stem the tide of negative sentiment, follow these steps for effective communication within your organization:
1. Share as much information as possible, as often as possible.
2. Don’t let technology do your dirty work. While it may be tempting to “hide” behind e-mail when discussing tough topics, face-to-face conversations are usually best.
3. Remember that information shared online (see point no. 2) can end up being forwarded to unintended audiences, such as former employees or the news media.
4. Avoid conducting business behind closed doors whenever possible. This is how rumors begin.
5. Keep a finger on the pulse of staff sentiment. This is the best way to quell rumors before they get out of hand.
6. Be prepared. Draft and file hard copies of any verbal communications you make to your employees. This is a good way to keep records of what was said and when.
7. Be transparent. Make it clear to everyone in your organization that questions are welcome and encouraged. Consider hosting a Q&A at the end of company meetings or having a message board posted on the intranet. By fostering an environment of open communication, it is likely your staff will come to you for information instead of relying on media reports and gossip.
Bad press can affect a company’s reputation for years if not handled correctly, and the internal ramifications can be great. Take a page from Facebook’s employee communications plan, and your business will be better for it.