By Lauren Dixon
Apr. 23, 2019
In Feb. 7, 2017, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) tried to read a 1986 letter from the late Coretta Scott King, expressing her opinion that then-Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) was unfit to serve as a federal judge. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) then silenced Warren through the Senate’s Rule XIX, which states that “no Senator in debate shall, directly or indirectly, by any form of words impute to another Senator or to other Senators any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a Senator.” Warren persisted, with her response promptly appearing on Facebook Live and across the internet as she read the letter to an audience of millions. If Warren simply read the letter without opposition, some might argue, the event would likely have gone unnoticed.
Shutting down conversations and communications tends to create anxiety rather than tending to create solutions in most cases.”
– Brian Kropp, HR practice leader at Gartner Inc.
This phenomenon of trying to prevent the spread of information, only to have the opposite occur, is called the Streisand Effect, and it isn’t limited to just our government or public figures. Companies that try to keep information secret among their workers might face headaches similar to the ones McConnell likely had in the days after his motion.
While there’s some merit to transparency in business, it’s doubtful that many business leaders would want every employee to know every piece of company information. Areas to keep quiet on might include:
Workers want to know information that will influence their daily work. But the information that executives share can’t be all positive; employees want the good, the bad and the reality, Kropp said. It’s important, he said, to give enough information to workers so they’re successful, without posing risks to the business. But keeping hush is not likely to keep all sensitive information from leaking.
“Employees have always wanted to talk with each other,” Kropp said, and the Streisand Effect in companies likely leads to thoughts of worst-case scenarios, such as layoffs. “Shutting down conversations and communications tends to create anxiety rather than tending to create solutions in most cases,” Kropp said.
To determine what to share, Kropp listed the following questions:
And when deciding with whom to discuss the information, Corbin advised establishing a network of trusted associates. “By having a defined and trustworthy group, you can sleep well knowing the information is safe. At the same time, if the information leaks, then you will have a better chance of identifying — or at least narrowing down — who was responsible and take the necessary actions to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
To further determine who to share information with, additional questions from Gartner’s Kropp could be helpful:
In the end, Kropp said it’s all about building trust, and executives should add to that trust more than they take away from it. Another way to build trust is through communication, according to “The 10 Laws of Trust,” a book by Joel Peterson, chairman of JetBlue Airways. “Leaders must be determined to share the facts with everyone, simply, persuasively, and thoroughly,” he wrote in the book. “That means telling it like it is, during good times and bad.”
For instance, at Apprise Mobile, Corbin makes a conscious effort to share both when the company gains new business and when a client leaves. Rather than focusing on the negativity of deals lost, it becomes a teachable moment. “There is a lesson to learn from every good and bad situation,” Corbin said. “Keeping everyone informed of the wins and losses allows us to do self-introspection, so that we learn from our successes and don’t make the same mistake twice.”
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