At last week’s Institute of Internal Communication Live conference in the UK, a slide was shown with a picture of someone who had been brutalized, covered by the text “Stop saying yes to your leaders – you are betraying your employees.”
This sentiment might be understandable to some, but embracing it presents a big backward step for internal communicators.
Our focus must continue to be on organizational success
For the last 20+ years, internal communicators have made a concerted effort to convince organizations and leaders that we can be their effective partners. Partners who can help them transform their companies, improve performance, accelerate alignment and develop sustainable, regenerative cultures.
Increasingly, we’ve been winning.
My current research for Happeo, for whom I am currently interviewing C-Level decision makers around the world, unambiguously shows appreciation for the value and potential IC can offer forward-thinking companies, to help them engage with their employees to achieve common purposes and deliver positive outcomes together, and to deal with difficult changes in a constructive and honest atmosphere.
But such results can only be delivered when internal communicators are committed to delivering for organizations.
When images like this slide pop up at a major IC event, in this case the UK’s Institute of Internal Communication’s IOICLive conference last week, they raise questions about that commitment.
Certainly, we can and must challenge leaders when their views may be counterproductive or miss out on vital perspectives.
But the moment we become perceived as “employee advocates” is the moment we get walked out of the building, and with good reason.
I can’t demand that everyone else agrees with me.
But I can challenge my fellow practitioners to assess the impact that the opposite – making a virtue out of saying no to leaders, or claiming our ultimate role is to somehow honor or protect employees – has on our collective credibility.
Even if one’s sympathies might be with employees, our collective and individual loyalties must be to the organizations that employ us. Indeed, our very value comes from helping organizations succeed by involving employees more constructively and productively in the pursuit of that success.
If we are to continue to make a difference to organizations, they need to know we are on their side. And IC practitioners need to be willing to challenge their peers and associations when they even hint at alternative agendas. Failing to do so may well undermine our collective credibility.