Employees are your most powerful spokespeople

The Financial Times reported today on survey results that indicate employees are feeling increasingly stressed in the workplace.  The dangers associated with overworked and discontented employees include quality and productivity issues, safety issues, and customer service problems.

Employees come to work sick more frequently now, because they are afraid to lose their jobs. Bullying and harassment by managers is on the rise.  Although the survey was conducted among human resources managers in the U.K., I am seeing this play out daily in Falls Church, Virginia.

Employees are a company’s ambassadors
What is the public relations and marketing lesson here?  As I have said before, marketing and public relations efforts will help a business or organization achieve its goals, but it is not a magic bullet.  Imagine how an advertising and public relations campaign can be sabotaged by a disgruntled employee.

Example: Overworking Employees at the Grocery Store
For example, my neighborhood grocery store (a major brand) fails to staff its store sufficiently on a regular basis, obviously trying to control costs.  Ironically, the store recently invested in a complete redesign.  It looks better, but since the economy worsened, so have management conditions at that store.  The employees are being worked to death.  A sad example happened just before the Superbowl.  The young man checking out my groceries appeared so fatigued and ill, I was afraid he was going to lose consciousness.  He told me he had not had a break all day.  We both tried to signal his manager; she saw, but ignored us.  That is just one example of many I have seen at this grocery store.

Example: Public Humiliation at the Post Office
Last month, I visited a large, busy post office I frequent often.  Anyone can see the employees there are conscientious and work very hard under less than ideal conditions.  An employee requested a break to use the bathroom.  I could tell he was almost afraid to ask.  The manager, who had been communicating disrespectfully to the employees the entire time I was there, denied his request in a humiliating way, that all who were in line and at the counters witnessed.  I was mortified and disgusted by her treatment of him.

Example: Disregarding the Communications Power of a Single Employee
I visited a business that offers copy services last week.  The employee and I were having a casual conversation as I checked out.  He proceeded to tell me, in great detail, how he and the other employees were being denied their promised bonuses in a corporate restructuring, as well as deceptions and other unfair practices.  Before he was done, he had told me enough inside information to write a revealing article, had I chosen to do so.  You don’t think the employee was a spokesperson for that company at that moment?   He was intelligent, articulate, and very angry.

Mistreat Employees, Expect to Lose Business
There is a cost associated with doing business. Minimum standards must be met, even in a recession.  Companies cannot continue to exploit their employees and expect to stay in business long.  For many companies, their employees are their best spokespersons, and all the advertising and public relations in the world will not erase certain negative perceptions communicated by them to customers.  No customer can feel good about frequenting a business where employees are not treated respectfully.  Companies and organizations clearly need to reset their priorities, treat their employees fairly, and invest more heavily in employee communications strategies.


About Mary Fletcher Jones

Mary Fletcher Jones is a mom, teacher, and blogger. She is also the creator of "Living Well With Autism," an online resource for caregivers of children, teens, and adults with autism and related special needs.

Posted on February 23, 2012, in Marketing Tips, Social Media in the Workplace and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Great post, Mary. I saw plenty of examples of your third example during the holiday season. One that stands out in my mind occurred while I was standing at the register of a major “big box” housewares store. The cashier devoted the majority of our transaction time complaining about how her manager treated the employees like criminals. As a result, the cashier took great pride in telling me that employees would not report shoplifters they caught in the act; they considered it their way at getting back at the manager. Talk about bad managers being bad for business!


Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: