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Should you spread bad news?

Judge the merits of the message before acting

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in Workplace Communication

Leah introduced herself to a trio of businesspeople at a Chamber of Commerce breakfast. When she mentioned her employer, their friendly faces turned sour.

“Your company has awful customer service,” one of them said.

“I hear they’re going under,” said another.

“They ripped me off,” added a third. When Leah returned to the office, she wasn’t sure what to do or say.

When you hear negative remarks about your company, the big question is what to do next. You may figure it’s best to alert your boss or write a memo, but you’re afraid he’ll “kill the messenger.” You consider keeping quiet, but that seems cowardly. You also weigh whether to investigate the matter yourself, possibly by following up with the folks from the breakfast.

Answer these questions to make the best move:

What’s to gain? Identify what you can accomplish by sharing the news within your company. Can a specific problem be fixed?

Can you offer solutions? If you meet people who complain about some aspect of your company, think of practical steps that would address their concern. If you can correct an error or improve your employer’s image, tie your solution to the problem when you discuss it internally.

Where’s your loyalty? If you hear rumors and deny them, let affected colleagues know. Show your loyalty by saying, “I stood up for you and this company.”

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