Can a CEO, government official or celebrity engage in private, written communications? It’s harder and harder when everyone has multiple social media accounts and organization rules for respecting information are either non-existent or loosely enforced. Just ask TV personality Steve Harvey.
Last week, a letter from Harvey to his staff at the “Steve Harvey” show was leaked to a blogger and made public. Surprise, surprise!
The letter contained a stern warning to the show’s employees not to “ambush” Harvey in his office and other specific studio locations. After listing his grievances about a lack of privacy on-set, Harvey’s letter concluded, “If you’re reading this, I mean you. Everyone, do not take offense to the new way of doing business. It’s for the good of my personal life and enjoyment.”
Though the public and media blowback against Harvey has been severe, he has refused to apologize. He did, however, admit “in hindsight, I probably should’ve handled it a little bit differently.”
Harvey ignored three basic principles of internal communications:
- Nothing is private in this world. You must assume that any communication you send either electronically or in hard copy will eventually get out to the public. Social media provides a tempting platform for anyone holding a grudge to air dirty laundry.
- Watch your tone. Harvey’s words couldn’t have been more tone deaf? The memo was interpreted as offensive by many on his staff. Busy as he undoubtedly is, there are better ways to communicate it, i.e., “Hey, guys, can you respect my privacy and specific needs so we can keep producing terrific shows?”
- A second pair of eyes is a must. A trusted colleague should review all staff communications before they go out, especially if they could be deemed critical of an individual or a group. If somebody had checked Harvey’s memo before he hit send or print, it could have been stopped or softened.
The bottom line: Before you write and send a critical note, take a moment to pause, breathe and think — Is there another way to do this? How will others react and what might they do with this information?