During a national lockdown, good communication with colleagues is essential. Bad communication is not only damaging to staff and the wider organisation, it's sometimes newsworthy too.
For some, it's been almost 12 months without stepping foot in their place of work, saying good morning to the security staff, the receptionist and colleagues. Almost a year without the chance to make small talk with the person from accounts whilst queuing to use the office kettle. Many employees are now resigned to working from home, waking each morning in fear of receiving a Zoom invitation from HR or worse, waking up to find that newspapers are anticipating the demise of your employer.
This is the time when we all need to pull together, to engage in good communication. But what does that mean? It will be different from place to place, company to company of course, but the core values of openness, transparency and honesty should be balanced cautiously with timing and delivery. This might sometimes be called emotional intelligence or simply 'reading the room'. What KPMG boss Bill Michael now knows, however, is that bad communication travels just as fast as bad news.
In a virtual 'Town Hall' meeting of a third of KPMG's 1500 UK employees this week, Mr Michael told staff to “stop moaning” and stop “playing the victim card”, when discussing issues around COVID-19. According to the reports, published by the Financial Times, some employees were not happy about this (for good reason). Others weren't so happy either and it has been subsequently reported that a formal investigation has commenced and Mr Michael has resigned after initially 'stepping aside' from his role.
There is inevitably a heightened concern about health and safety in the workplace at the present time. This, combined with mental health and wellbeing awareness being at the forefront of many business priorities, simply means that dismissal of real employee concerns is not only unwise and unhelpful, it may also be unlawful, leaving employers exposed to potential discrimination and whistleblowing claims. And, as we know, bad press!
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The UK chair of accountancy firm KPMG has apologised to staff after telling them to “stop moaning” during a virtual meeting about the pandemic and the impact of lockdown on people’s lives.