I was reminded the other day of the importance of the words "no" and "yes" in internal communications, and the even greater importance of knowing how, and when, to say them.
Here are some nos I'd like the hear more often:
No, we can't include that 200-word sentence in the story because it doesn't make sense.
No, we shouldn't keep that critical fact from employees because they already know it.
No, we'd better not paint too positive a picture because employees can smell bullshit a mile away.
No, the company shouldn't impose that new policy without consulting with employees.
No, I won't put a picture of your damned cat in the employee newsletter.
And so on. You gotta draw the line. The problem is, the more we say no, the more managers think employee communicators are not much more than bureaucratic obstacles to communicating. We're often seen to have these weird highfalutin standards that show we don't understand the business or the true culture of the organization.
And so, to avoid being viewed as stonewalling bureaucrats, we get in the habit of saying yes to things we shouldn't, like,
Yes, I'll publish that insanely cold, jargony, meaningless message to employees.
Yes, it's just fine that you didn't consult me before you made that stupid, morale-destroying decision.
Yes, I'll do exactly what you tell me, and I really don't mind being told what to do.
Yes, we don't have to do any meaningful follow-up on those lousy employee survey results.
Yes, it's just fine to eliminate our flagship print publication.
You get the idea.
Of course, there are effective ways to say no that don't include the word no and don't necessarily make a bad impression. In the end, the key to being an effective communicator isn't whether you say yes or no, but rather whether you approach your job with integrity -- and whether you help solve an organization's problems in a way that earns you trust, confidence and respect.