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When the boss keeps giving mixed messages

Blair McPherson - former Director, Author and Blogger
We have all heard it before the boss who responds to a critical report about bullying, abuse and excessive work loads by stating that he his pleased the staff spoke out, because the organisation wants to be a place where people share concerns freely . He encourages staff to speak to their managers if they have any issues and not hesitate to ask for help.
Note the shift from being pleased staff spoke out to speak to your manager and then “ ask for help”. Which will be interpreted by some staff as speak to your manager rather than going public and they will help you with your problem. As opposed to recognising that either the manager is the problem or the organisation’s culture is the problem. In this case an doubt about the real message is removed by the final statement.
“In the months ahead, there are times when we’re going to feel more stretched than others, but just remember: If we all go an extra mile for our client, even when we feel that we’re reaching our limit, it can really make a difference in our performance.”
So the real message is the work load is going to increase and we expect you all to work even harder despite  your complaints about current pressures. At the end of the day what’s most important to senior management is improved performance.
You would assume that before making a public statement that was to be emailed to all staff the CEO would have consulted HR and the communications team about the text. May be they did and the CEO went off message adding his own bit at the end. This was clearly intended as a damage limitation exercise in which staff and the wider audience were reassured that senior management were taking this seriously.
This after all is in the context of an employee death after routinely working 100 hours a week and suffering reaped sleep deprivation. But the result is a mixed message on the one hand stating the senior management team treats emplees concerns seriously and on the other confirming the organisation’s culture recognises and encourages exploitation. This is the CEO setting the tone for the organisation and the message is nothing has changed!

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