Bungie employees cite ‘soul-crushing’ atmosphere after cuts, data reveals managers don’t communicate as well with hybrid workers

Plus, a story for communicators on remote and front-line workers.

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

1. Employees at video game developer describe dire workplace environment after layoffs

Video game studio Bungie is known for work that transports players to another place, like the games Halo and Destiny, to name a few. But if recent reports are to be believed, some Bungie employees may have been relieved to have been cut amid recent layoffs due to a poor work atmosphere. The horror stories emerged following the organization’s acquisition by Sony.

According to IGN:

In a year that will go down in gaming history due to the sheer number of layoffs and studio closures, Bungie’s situation nonetheless stands out, and not for good reasons. It’s a well-known, long-standing studio that, despite historic culture problems, had managed to cultivate an increasingly positive community of fans around a beloved game while improving its own internal culture by gradual degrees. But in the wake of an acquisition that shocked many Bungie employees we’ve spoken to, and which seemed out of character with the studio’s independent streak, it feels to many like that’s all falling apart. Beloved colleagues have been laid off, benefits are vanishing, and many feel the “more people-oriented” (as one source put it) culture of recent years is being torn to pieces by the very Bungie leaders that touted it for so long. And seemingly all so those same leaders can retain a vestige of control over a company that’s already been sold away anyway.

“Folks still there are very much feeling ‘us vs them’ between leadership and workers,” one person said. “That trust has been eroded.”

Times of transition can be tough on everyone in an organization, communicators and leaders included. But if employees are going to the media saying that bonds of trust are frayed, that’s a major red flag.

While it might be too late for Bungie to repair these bonds, there are some lessons to take away here for communicators:

Trust is the foundation upon which good employee communications are built. When times of change such as acquisitions and layoffs happen, communicators need to be sure they’re front and center keeping people aware of what’s going on, what resources are available and, when possible, what’s to come. If you leave people to metaphorically twist in the wind, it’s going to plant seeds of cultural strife that might be hard to recover from in the long run.

2. Data shows that managers lack comms acuity with hybrid workers

One challenge on the desks of managers across countless organizations remains that of  communicating effectively with a dispersed and hybrid workforce. It’s a simple fact that it’s easier to communicate with someone who’s at the desk down the hall rather than virtually from miles away. That’s been borne out by data, with a report by FlexOS revealing that respondents gave their managers a middling 7 out of 10 score on managing hybrid and remote teams, and 30% of respondents cited unclear communication from managers as a source of frustration.

According to Fast Company:

A peer-reviewed paper published in Nature Human Behavior found that remote work creates a more siloed communication environment. The researchers point out that this environment, if not addressed effectively through communication best practices, makes it harder for employees to get and share new information across the network. And another peer-reviewed research study, in the academic journal Frontiers in Psychology, highlighted how hybrid work contributes to social isolation for recent hires, with effective management playing the key role of addressing such isolation and improving engagement.

Managers are one of the most critical assets for getting messages out. Employees often trust and relate the best to messages from managers a positive work culture because there’s an established interpersonal connection, and if there’s a frayed line of communication in a hybrid situation, that needs to be addressed. When communications is too siloed, as the article above describes, that’s a pitfall for crossed wires, lost productivity and a lacking work culture. By encouraging managers to engineer time to touch base with employees regardless of location, communicators can help keep those relationships strong and hold employee frustrations at bay.

3. Gallup study shows frontline workers don’t envy hybrid colleagues, but desire flexibility

Since the rise of hybrid work during the pandemic, there’s been chatter over the fairness of some employees being able to work at home while others have roles that require them to be on-site. But recent data from Gallup shows that there’s no jealousy of hybrid workers from those required to work in person, but there is a common desire for flexibility.

According to The Washington Post:

The majority (57 percent) of almost 35,500 workers surveyed said they were “not at all” bothered that other workers sometimes worked from home. But they still want more flexibility in their own jobs, said Ryan Pendell, senior workplace science editor with Gallup, who worked on the survey.

“Everybody wants the ability to reasonably adjust your job in order to make your job and the rest of your life fit,” Pendell said.

Whether it’s working hours of the day that can be made up later to attend to matters such as childcare or medical appointments, or earlier start times with earlier end-of-day times to accommodate for other personal things, flexibility is something employees want regardless of where they work. In turn, it’s something communicators also need to be attuned to. By taking pulse surveys and other employee data collection methods, communicators can figure out what their employees want and work with leadership to try to make that flexibility happen.

Additionally, comms has an important role in keeping culture positive: If negativity does crop up around a lack of flexibility, it’s past time to ask employees about what can be done to fix it. Comms isn’t just a department that sends out messaging — it’s a conduit to a good company culture.

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.


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