Briffa Way – Message in a bottle

Written by Margaret Briffa | August 3, 2018

Intellectual Property

Way back when the most exciting message you could ever hope to receive was definitely one that came in a bottle.

Fast forward 20 years to the end of the 1990’s and the idea of a message had been high jacked by the New Labour spin machine that presided over statements made by party politicians and gave judgement as to whether any given statement was on or off message. By the early 2000 the idea of messaging has crept into corporate speak.

Other than companies languishing on the edge of financial ruin most companies professed to having a message that was rigorously imparted to its customers and anyone else who would listen. In all this effort to ensure clear lines of communication between a business and its customers the art of internal messaging took a backseat.

This week has brought us a story that is a timely reminder that how we communicate internally in our businesses is just as important as how we communicate with the outside world. Enter one Mr Marcus Wood owner and director at recruiting firm Mars Recruitment, Australia. It is a story of messaging mess up that we can all learn from. It was just an ordinary Friday morning in Sydney when Mr Woods decided to kick off his Friday morning by sending an email to staff saying ‘Five or six of you are REALLY GETTING ON MY TITS.  He railed against 1) endless ping pong during business hours 2) not even bothering to wear a suit and look the part and 3) taking more sick days than Tom Hanks in the dying days of Philadelphia. He warned that slacking employees may soon ‘feel his wrath and it is not going to be pretty’.

By the time we had woken up in London the email had gone viral. Most were unsympathetic to Woods. Many slated the frustrated boss as an example of how not to commutate. Before long a mortified Woods had issued an apology for his outburst describing it as his Gordon Ramsay meets Donald Trump moment. He went on to confirm he valued all employees and was sorry to have used such language to express his concerns.

Despite the almost universal condemnation there were a few who admired Mr Woods’ style. There was no pussyfooting around what he thought was wrong. No corporate speak euphemisms for poor performance. It is true that muffled language which disguises the message can be just as cutting and is often used by managers to hide behind criticism. Advocating for ‘saying it like it is’ can be unpopular and risky. If delivered well however it can often set both the messenger and the person who receives the message free. A culture of straightforward internal communication has other positive benefits. If a company communicates clearly and honestly internally those principals are most likely follow through to the way it communicates with its customers. Clients crave transparency in their dealings. They need to be able to put their trust in a professional who is going to speak plainly and fearlessly. If a business struggles to communicate well internally it will surely struggle when communicating with its clients.

Mr Woods might have avoided criticism by not using a group email to vent his frustration. His intention was not to upset the team but to get his message across. But his method was all wrong.

A message in a bottle doesn’t cut it for this type of thing but a face to face, one on one meeting instead probably would have done.

For Friday mass mail outs let us stick to messages about the availability of pastries for free in the recreation room.

Have a good weekend Mr Woods!


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