When Silence is Not Golden

July 12, 2012
By Louise Rosen Byer on July 12, 2012 10:54 AM |

If you are a professional, you have had tough ethical decisions to make in your career. This is an inescapable aspect of being in the business world.

If this has not happened to you, you are new to your profession. And if it has, you are doing well because you are thinking through tough issues and you know them when you see them.

There are times in the life of every communications professional that we must make very tough recommendations to our internal clients. There are times in the life of every professional that we must make decisions that could have a downside to reputation and bottom line. There are times in the life of every executive that someone in your organization will bring you bad news and you will not want to hear it.

But you must hear it. And consider what to do about it.

In the world of crisis communications, sometimes our clients disagree with us and sometimes they agree, but regardless we advise them on the risks and benefits in handling very difficult matters and situations. There are times when the reputation of an institution or a business will in fact be hurt more badly by NOT saying what is.

Many executives cringe at bad news. This in turn causes those within an organization or business to avoid telling it.

But bad news is important to confront and report. We have seen the impact to reputation when bad news is hidden and we are not open with our publics. This generally backfires. We have also seen examples of businesses and organizations that confronted bad news, dealt with it openly and became stronger.

What I am talking about here is the courage to say what is, when the news is bad, both internally and externally.

There are times when silence is not golden. So if you are in leadership and you want a functional organization, tell your constituencies that you want to hear bad news. Tell them that silence is not golden. When bad news happens, go public with it in a way that proves to the world that you are in fact an ethical, healthy organization that does the right thing when that is the right thing to do.