Working in a vacuum

1368
 
Dear Joan:
I am being excluded in the office with regards to information I need to do my job, which is PR and communications.
 
My boss knows this is a problem, as we've talked about it before, and he agrees with me, but it never seems to change. As COO, he is a very busy person but that doesn't excuse all of the other executives and managers who seem to forget that I exist and what my function is. I have asked them to send me information and keep me in the loop but it doesn't happen.
 
Sometimes they don't use my services at all and send out companywide communications with spelling errors and typos (which drives me nuts). They don't invite me to meetings, or send me information about the company, yet, I am expected to write about the company's latest news and information. I tend to hear things after the fact or through the grapevine. As a communications professional, I like to be in front of the news, not behind it. 
 
I have over 15 years experience and have been with this particular company for a few years now.  I have a manager title and report to the COO and CEO. I have usually worked independently and have never missed a deadline for any of the newsletters or communication items I am expected to complete. I can understand that it can take time to trust and get comfortable with me, but I would expect that sort of distrust to dissipate within the first year. 
 
I have had excellent performance reviews with the COO and I have consistently received positive feedback. In fact, even though I'm not a graphics designer by trade, I've tried my hand at this, too, to help out and they liked the results. In turn, I was recently given additional marketing responsibilities, as well. To create more professional pieces, I asked for additional design software - not an unreasonable request. My requests were ignored up until only recently.
 
I always say the proof is in the pudding, so I've tried to let my work speak for itself but despite proving myself, no one seems to see my value. Meanwhile, I am working in a vacuum.
 
Something in my gut tells me I'm being sabotaged and don't know if I should fight this battle (and how) or move on. Any advice?
 
Answer:
Sabotage is a tough thing to prove. And once you let paranoia take hold, your resulting behavior is likely to make things worse. You’re best bet is to work through your boss.
 
For example, in many companies the senior leaders set a policy that no outward- bound, company-wide communications can be released without going through PR/Communications. Most executive teams recognize that having no filter is risky. They want to manage the message.
 
The same is true about incoming requests for interviews, articles in magazines, or requests for company information. Companies want to guard their brand, so they want to shape and deliver a consistent message. 
 
I recommend that you go to your manager with a plan and ask for his help. The first request is to ask the COO to mandate that all company-wide internal and external communications be sent to you prior to release. Emphasize the business case for your request. This goes beyond typos, to strategy and brand and employee engagement. Ask him to position you as a value-added partner who can make their jobs easier and keep communications strategically focused.
 
Explain that it’s evident that you won’t be invited to meetings because PR or communications simply aren’t top of mind when leaders are getting together to make decisions or shape policy. Ask your boss to help you identify the key meetings you should be attending on a regular basis; for example, a quarterly strategic planning session, or a monthly project review. Then ask the COO to let the meeting leader know you will be attending in the future.
 
As a part of the plan, explain that you would like to begin meeting regularly with senior leaders—perhaps over lunch—to stay in touch with what is going on in their areas. This will help you get to know them, build rapport and trust and stay ahead of the issues.
 
If the COO balks, or blows you off, ask for some straightforward feedback. Ask him to tell you honestly if you are doing something that is preventing leaders from using you as a resource. Probe and listen, without justifying or defending your actions. Once you get it out on the table, you will have a better idea how to deal with it.
 
In the absence of negative feedback, give the leaders the benefit of the doubt. Consider how busy managers’ lives are and how communications is usually an afterthought. Getting proactive is your best bet, and getting real support from your COO will be a good start.


Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616, mailto:info@joanlloyd.com, or www.JoanLloyd.com 
 
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