Last summer, during Ragan’s Workplace Wellness Awards in Chicago, a hush fell over the celebratory luncheon crowd as one award recipient shared her advice for comms leaders from the stage:
“Stop referring to your workforce as a family.”
Her words drew sparse, scattered applause, which grew as she explained her reasoning. Calling your employees family in messaging, she said, sets a precedent for the disintegration of work/life boundaries, creates co-dependency and a forced sense of obligation. After all, there are things family members do for each other that no worker ever should.
This anecdote resurfaced recently at Ragan when The Wall Street Journal published a piece about massive layoffs at Salesforce that focused on how CEO Mark Benioff’s executive comms often referred to an employee culture that was as tight as a family. Now, when he’s laying off thousands of them, those words don’t pass the smell test.
Mr. Benioff, who lives part-time at a large compound in Hawaii, has for years used the Hawaiian word “ohana,” or familial bonds, to describe the company’s close relationship with employees and customers.
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