Archive for January, 2013

Folklore of employee communication always includes the “grapevine”, or word of mouth, the unofficial communication channel in organizations. The grapevine often centered on the water cooler, where employees were said to congregate and gossip.

That 1940-ish image of organizational communication seems outdated in view of Web 2-0-enabled communication, but the grapevine remains real. However, like so much else in communication/PR, the grapevine has been updated with new technology. For example, email. Emailed news can spread rapidly throughout an organization before employees can even get to the water cooler.

Employers often seek to restrict the flow of communication via the grapevine, which can at times be dangerous. Such communication is often filled with rumors, distortions, misinformation, and lies. This typically occurs when there is a vacuum created by an inadequate organizational communication program. Inaccurate grapevine communication often goes beyond the confines of the organization and does harm among the organization’s publics.

With the rise in usage of social media, the grapevine is now more powerful and faster and with greater reach. Using Twitter and Facebook, among others, employees often discuss ostensibly taboo subjects with much wider audiences than just co-workers.

Accordingly, are employers justified in restricting such communication? Not according to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

As reported in The New York Times recently by Steven Greenhouse, The NLRB has declared in a  series of recent rulings and advisories that many employer-sanctioned restrictions are illegal. The NLRB argues that employees have a right to discuss work conditions freely and without fear of retribution, whether the discussion takes place at the office or on Facebook.

The NLRB’s ruling applies to virtually all private sector employees, Greenhouse writes, advising that certain broad social media policies are illegal. According to the NLRB, employees have the right to vent.

High marks were given to Wal-Mart’s social media usage policy, the Times reported, which includes prohibitions against “inappropriate postings that may include discriminatory remarks, harassment, and threats of violence or similar inappropriate or unlawful conduct.”

Some advice:

  • Managers of organizational communication programs should revisit their employers’ social media policies and update them where appropriate.
  • Employee communication managers should monitor and pay attention to what is being said via the grapevine. Correct the misinformation with facts. Telling employees the truth will counter the misinformation that often circulates via the grapevine.
  • Employees should think before posting. Consider what you are about to write, for Google never forgets. Is what you wish to say harmless or hurtful?  Think about it. What you consider a righteous vent may be a career-limiting move.

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It is hard to believe that I have been blogging now for six years. Thank you, dear readers, for joining me in this journey.

What began as a way for me to learn more about social media by becoming an active participant in it has now become part of who I am.

I may be neither the most prolific blogger out there, nor the most eloquent, but when I do post something, it is about a subject that means something to me. It may be silly or serious, but it is something that has touched me enough to write about it.

I do not post according to a timeline. For example, I do not strive to post daily or one post every week or anything like that. I post when I have something to say. At this point in my career (and my life), I am not blogging for fame or fortune. I just like blogging when I have something to say. There is no egotism in writing my blog. It is a form a self-expression, not a device to get anything, but a way to give to any who will accept.

If you have chosen to read my words, thank you. I hope you will come back again and again. If you do not care for what I am doing here, then I bless you in finding blogs that have more appeal to you. After all, there are a zillion different blogs out there.

Following are my posts which got the most views:

1. Good news and bad news about a degree in Communication/Public Relations, April 2011
2. Legal and ethical issues when employers check applicants’ social networking sites, February 2008
3. Grad school decision time: master’s degree in communication or MBA or IMC? February 2008
4. When the student is ready, the teacher will appear: The importance of having a mentor,  October 2011
5. Personal traits that help PR people be successful, September 2008

The list is instructive. It tells me that readers want helpful information that might be useful in making various career- and education-related decisions. In the future, I will do my best to provide you with more such information.

Thank you again for your support of More With Les. It means a great deal to me to have you join me here.

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Rest easy, Americans. Your government is hard at work protecting you — from the fart.

According to the Washington Post, the Social Security Administration recently officially sanctioned a worker for allegedly creating a “hostile work environment” by passing gas in the office. The letter of reprimand cited 60 documented times over 12 weeks that the employee passed gas in his office.

According to the supervisor, the employee passed gas as many as nine times a day. There must have been a permanent bluish cloud in his office.

The employee said he suffers from “uncontrollable flatulence.” No joke.

Rather than punish the employee, the Social Security Administration ought to sell his story to cable for a new reality show — “Fartorama”. They could make enough money to save social security for all of us who will most likely never see a dime of payment because our government is broke.

At least get the guy some Beano, a useful product that prevents gas.  I don’t know what this person is eating, but whatever it is, send a list of his meals to foodie networks so we can all avoid them. 

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The book, Investing Between the Lines: How to Make Smarter Decisions by Decoding CEO Communications, by L.J. Rittenhouse, documents a compelling relationship between effective communication and corporate stock returns.

Rittenhouse, an investor relations specialist, has compiled an annual survey since 1999 of CEO letters to shareholders which ranks 100 large companies based on corporate culture and candor. The surveys have tracked CEO shareholder letters since 1999 to study their words versus deeds.

The surveys found that corporate leaders who do what they say have more efficient, productive, and successful  companies. Rittenhouse’s annual rankings have consistently shown a compelling relationship between executive candor and stock returns.

Who knew? We all did, that’s who. Communication professionals have been urging business leaders to engage in honest, candid, two-way communication with all stakeholders, including investors, for decades now. However, I think honest, frequent two-way communication with shareholders is now more important than ever. With so much emphasis on the troubled world economy, investors deserve straight talk from business leaders.

As Rittenhouse proves, effective communication leads to better stock returns. That’s a win-win.

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