JP Morgan CEO backs Disney amid activist investor conflict, Dollar General employees walk out of Wisconsin store

Plus: How laid-off tech employees are finding support.

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. JP Morgan CEO backs Disney CEO in activist investor battle

JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon has backed Disney head honcho Bob Iger amid his fight against activist investors Trian Partners. In a statement to CNBC’s David Faber, Dimon defended Iger’s moves since returning to Disney and said that he knew the media space well.

“Bob is a first-class executive and outstanding leader who I’ve known for decades. He knows the media and entertainment business cold and has the successful track record to prove it. It’s a complicated industry filled with creative talent, requiring the unique expertise and engagement skills that Bob possesses. Putting people on a Board unnecessarily can harm a company. I don’t know why shareholders would take that risk, especially given the significant progress the company has made since Bob came back.”

Dimon’s statement lands amid Trian’ founding partner Nelson Peltz is attempting to convince shareholders to nominate him to the Disney board. It’s notable to mention that Trian owns about $3.5 billion worth of Disney stock and that Disney’s recent turnaround in finances wasn’t enough to satisfy Peltz. In reply, Trian called Disney’s outlook a “spaghetti against the wall plan”. Seems like a bit of a mess to unravel, but there’s a comms takeaway yet.

The lesson here? Know what other leaders your executives can count on when times get tough—especially those whose industry expertise doubles as advocacy and support for whatever your org is going through. Comms should always be working with leadership to keep them on message. Before any public pronouncements, make sure your top brass are trained on not just how to speak to the media, but what other corporate news is fit to engage with and which topics to abstain from. The ramifications might be big, both inside and outside your org.

2. Dollar General employees quit, shut down store in Wisconsin

Ever thought about just walking out of your job and not coming back on a bad day? For some Dollar General employees in Wisconsin, that’s exactly what happened. According to USA Today,  all employees walked out and quit their jobs at a store in Mineral Point, WI, stating in a note left on the door that “Policies, processes and procedures need to change!”

To Dollar General’s credit, the company’s response was swift in addressing the issue.

“We are committed to providing an environment where employees can grow their careers and where they feel valued and heard,” Dollar General said in a statement emailed to USA Today.

Dollar General’s statement succeeds for hearkening back to the company’s mission and values, including a desire to create a working environment in which employees are heard and feel like they matter, but it falls short of explaining how those values were or weren’t acted upon in this instance. Employee comms during these types of situations aren’t easy, but you can lean on your organization’s core values as a guidepost.

Communicating with a level of specificity and personability during and after employee conflicts separates good employee comms from great ones, where such issues are identified and rooted out through healthy manager communications, qualitative measurement and holistic employee engagement strategies.

3. Laid-off tech employees find support systems with LinkedIn, one another

Unfortunately, layoffs are an increasingly common reality in today’s economy. Now, a group of former tech workers are banding together to form a support group after losing jobs they once thought were unassailable.

According to NBC News:

Google slashed about 12,000 workers (about 6% of its workforce) last year, followed by more than 1,000 additional layoffs so far this year. The job losses were widespread, and many of the people cut were mid-career employees who in some cases had served for well over a decade — or over half of Google’s entire history.

“The biggest challenge people have in that group is they’ve not written a résumé in 15 years,” said Christopher Fong, an ex-Google employee who manages Xoogler, a community of other former Googlers, which doubled in size after last year’s layoffs. Fong said that Google has since rehired some of them but that the majority are still looking for full-time work.

As part of its support services, Xoogler offers psychotherapy coaching to boost members’ confidence throughout their job searches. One in-person gathering early last year featured a slideshow presentation that reminded attendees “most layoffs are not about performance” and said, “This was not your fault.”

We can all learn a lesson from this one. Employees are drivers of the community, and we need to treat them as such. Sometimes employees who might have gone through a layoff and are starting a new role, or those who were left behind after a restructuring might need a little more support. That could be therapy offerings, professional development, or other ways to ensure confidence. But comms can play a big role in working with HR to ensure these efforts are engaged with and part of the cultural, and community fabric at work. No matter the situation in an organization, we can’t lose sight of the humanity of the people who make up the company. It’s your job to make sure that’s reinforced.

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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