CNN chief hints at upcoming layoffs, language of business leaders annoys employees

Plus, figuring out whether remote or in-person employees are more productive.

Greetings, comms pros! Let’s look at some news stories from the last week and see what we can learn from them.

1.  CNN CEO teases layoffs to staff 

CNN is headed for a round of layoffs according to CEO Chris Licht. Employees have been preparing for the changes since Licht began reviewing the news division’s business and programming.

The Hollywood Reporter writes:

Licht explained the rationale in a memo to staff Wednesday, adding that “our aim is to have most of these decisions made by the end of the year so we can start 2023 feeling settled and prepared for the future.”

In his memo, Licht cited the worsening macroeconomic environment as one reason for the cuts.

“There is widespread concern over the global economic outlook, and we must factor that risk into our long-term planning,” Licht wrote. “All this together will mean noticeable change to this organization. That, by definition, is unsettling. These changes will not be easy because they will affect people, budgets, and projects.”

CNN’s round of layoffs are just the latest set of job cuts in the media industry that has been hemorrhaging talent for years. Although Licht’s memo is transparent, people-first and cites the reasoning behind the upcoming layoffs, it is unclear what resources or support the organization will provide to laid-off employees.

This memo serves as a reminder that fear of the unknown is worse than bad news when it comes to change communications, and emphasizes the importance of going beyond words when putting people first by not leaving them in the dark.

2. The language used by leadership is annoying

When you’re communicating with your employees, how you talk to them matters.

Susan Fowler, author of “Why Motivating People Doesn’t Work, and What Does” explained how refreshed she was to learn that a huge wealth management group scrubbed internal documents of the word “drive” to reframe how financial advisors perceived performance motivation from being something imposed on them through internal communications to something based on their values and service.

In a recent op-ed for SmartBrief, Fowler writes:

The workplace is rife with leadership practices based on concepts such as Drive Theory — an outdated approach to motivation based on physiological or physical drives, not psychological needs. Unfortunately, our language reflects these obsolete practices. Therein lies the problem. Words connote beliefs — they carry an energetic property. Leaders are constantly using words filled with connotations that undermine their best intentions. It can take decades or longer to purge the language of leadership and incorporate more evolved thinking.

When working with leaders, I urge them to reframe their language proactively. I ask them to be mindful of how their words can generate negative energy that contributes to people feeling unsafe, defensive, guarded, inferior, incompetent or fearful. I recommend, for example, that they avoid controlling language and closed-ended questions that stifle people’s mindfulness and erode optimal motivation.

Beyond keeping open lines of communication with your employee, you need to be sure you’re communicating with them in the right way. Be conscious of the language that you use and the psychological implications that certain words carry over others.

3. Who is more productive: a remote or onsite employee?

With millions of Americans in hybrid or fully-remote roles, there has been countless research to determine whether or not work-from-home employees are as productive as those working in an office.

Recent findings indicate that there might be a divide between employees feeling productive at home and whether their managers feel the same way.

SHRM reports:

A recent Microsoft study on hybrid work and productivity revealed a stark divide between leaders and employees. Although numerous studies have shown that employees are often more productive when they have the option to work remotely, more than three-quarters of the leaders surveyed by Microsoft remain skeptical, a phenomenon that the researchers dubbed “productivity paranoia.”

If unresolved, this paranoia can lead organizations to restrict or even terminate their remote-work options, which may, in turn, impact HR’s ability to recruit, retain and engage talented employees.

These numbers make a case for developing a framework to gauge productivity that managers can easily follow, with clear and transparent expectations set for each employee depending on their situation.

No matter an employee’s work configuration,  communicators can work with HR to provide managers with the training and resources to have conversations that meet their employees where they are and figure out what work arrangements best suit each employee.

4. How about some good news?

Have a great weekend, comms all-stars!

Sean Devlin is an editor at Ragan Communications. In his spare time he enjoys Philly sports, a good pint and ’90s trivia night. Follow him on LinkedIn.

COMMENT Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive the latest articles from directly in your inbox.