I recently took a train journey from London Euston to Chester on a weekday morning. The train was not packed with passengers but at my table were two businessmen. As we travelled they spoke and discussed issues with one another in perhaps a careless manner.
They were very clear on a lot of detail. Indeed I soon became very aware of who they were and which company – a known high value retailer – for they were the CEO and his Stores Director. Which company specifically? Well I would rather not say as that dilemma (yes, I did give it a lot of thought) is core really to this blog. Their gross indiscretion is something we should all avoid and to state their names and company would be a similar gross indiscretion on my part!
Let me start with one point they were discussing which really reflects as much on them as it did the issue. One of their staff had posted something via one of the company twitter accounts which they described as problematic and naive. They discussed a disciplinary document and even exchanged views on the draft on an iPad they exchanged between them! My thought was: how is this staff member’s error any different to your own? One put information online that was not best for their company and in the other scenario the CEO and a Director discussed confidential details in a public place within very easy listening of others around them.
Perhaps if their indiscretion related to this single and pressing issue I may have been inclined to ignore their error of judgement but their discussions went on! Opinions were given on two named senior staff – not good opinions at all guys but I won’t name you either. An acquisition was discussed – thankfully without names in this case. I also now know their floor footprint profitabilities and which of their stores performs the best and is run the best and it’s not the obvious one!
These guys did not know who I was, nor my travelling companion (also not named so you don’t badger him to get identities!) I could have been from the Press or media, I could have been from a competitor and I am a member of the public. I have been in some of their stores but after this train journey I might think again before doing so again given that management – very senior management – style.
In reality I don’t think they registered I was there. They did when I sat down and when I left as one of them had to let me in/out. However between time ALL other passengers were non entities and discussion of anything was not an issue for them. I fear their staff are treated the same and their customers are deluded if they feel valued.
What we say online (the Twitter error) can cause problems, as can what we say in a public place or forum. We need to think before we speak. My thoughts on whether to blog this lead me to think there was a message worth sharing – the identities would be sensational but really add nothing to the points being made. If this was a corner shop business it applies the same as to this known high street operation.
The adage “if you would not say it to their face then don’t say it” holds true. Online, in print, vocally present no differences. My decision to blog this was in part to make the point: guys, you thought your discussion was not online but due to your errors now it is! My suggestion would be that they take that disciplinary letter they wrote to the member of staff who had erred on Twitter and remove her name. Then place their own names at the top and send it via HR to themselves. I hope they did not threaten dismissal or it may justifiably back fire on them.
Our public message spans more than what we publicly declare in print or via a speech then. Our discussion of individuals can be unwise. We need to consider what, where and how we discuss things. In the future I will think twice before having a business meeting on a train – it could be you, the reader of this, sat next to me. I hope though if we do meet on a train then I will be a lot more courteous to you and the people I know.