so here’s what happened. every so often (about once a quarter) my company puts on these town hall meetings where an executive talks for about an hour on the state of the company and then spends a half hour answer questions from the audience. this year, they’ve put together a system so that you can watch and ask questions from your desk, which eliminates the need for one of these in every major city in the network. it also helps squish some of the rumor mill that follows these around. if we all hear the same message at the same time, there’s less ability for speculation to turn into “fact.”
it is part of my employee progress report to attend these as best i am able to. because there are a few other “as best i am able to” status indicators on that report that i refuse to do, i make a point of watching these when they come up. i should point out that i am part of a very large IT group and that was the target audience for this town hall, and that the executive who gave the presentation is the chief technological officer.
a couple employees on my team who watched the most recent one were so concerned by what they heard (specifically the general attitude of the executive leading the presentation) that they wanted to voice their opinion up the chain of command. my boss, in turn, put out an open call to the entire team looking for feedback. this is what i wrote:
I would prefer this candid commentary from Mr. Executive to some sort of misleading “everything is fine” illusion, but I think these town halls aren’t alleviating employee concerns. There’s very little in the town hall that I can pull as an example of something that was obviously inappropriate or offensive, but I was left with the message that I was not trying hard enough, did not love my company enough, and should not expect anything for my increased devotion. Was that the goal?
A couple of very brave audience members asked questions that impressed me, specifically the one about being “heavily persuaded” to sell products to our friends and family we have no faith in, and the bright flight the company is currently experiencing where we’re losing young talented employees who could be helping shape the future of this company. In both cases, Mr. Executive presented a 3-fold response. 1-That the issue did not really exist (customer service is improving/promotions and progressions are being allowed no matter what we’re being told). 2-That it was beyond his power to do anything about it (marketing builds the packages/our supervisors are “screwing up” (direct quote) by not identifying and keeping these talented individuals) 3-That the true problem lies within the individual employee (you should take pride in our products or not be a part of this company/you should have developed the ever-changing set of skills or business knowledge if you expected the company to value you). That last one, in particular was a slap in the face to the thousands of employees who have devoted their entire careers to the backbone of this company.
This method was frequently used by my ethics teacher in college when one of his students attempted to argue against a point he was making. Invalidate the argument, absolve yourself of any accountability, and discredit the source. It infuriated me when it was used by a man determining my grades. It frightens me now that it’s being used by someone determining the future of my company.
These are my thoughts. I’m probably less concerned about how having my name attached to them will affect my career at this company than I should be.
yesterday, as i hit the send button i was looking forward to the shock and awe i might get in response. this was my chance to tell them what we’re all thinking. i wasn’t just doing it for me, i was doing it for all the people i’ve talked to in the past few months who are so dissatisfied with this place. i was doing it for my mom and all of her friends who look so incredibly disheartened when i describe what’s happened to the company they loved.
today, after my boss said “that’s great, do you mind if i send it to the whole team?” i’m more than a little freaked out. it’s not that i take back anything i said, it’s just…i think i just wanted to be heard. i didn’t think of any potential repercussions, and the ones swimming in my over-active imagination right now are…frightening.