Tuesday, June 16, 2009

MySpace, don't tell your employees one thing and your investors another

Two-Face by Logan Zawacki (LZ Creations) used under a Creative Commons License

At lunchtime today, I wrote about the MySpace layoffs. But there was something buried in my post that even I missed until later, after reading Paul Short's Inquisitr piece.

Layoffs are a tough thing and a trying time, and it's important to be as honest and forthright as possible with employees, both those who are leaving and those who are staying. At the same time, you need to motivate the remaining employees (and, for that matter, the departing ones). In my lunchtime post, I quoted from MySpace CEO Owen Van Natta's message to MySpace employees in which he attempted to accomplish these goals. This is part of what he said:

These decisions are difficult for everyone, but especially for our friends and colleagues who contributed to MySpace’s success and are directly affected by the changes. Through no fault of theirs our company’s size became unsustainable. The future success of MySpace is dependent upon us operating as a nimble and entrepreneurial company with the adaptive mentality of a start-up.

Friends. Colleagues. Language that suggests that the remaining employees, and even the departing ones, are valuable, wonderful people.

Did the MySpace employees believe Van Natta's words? Not if they heard what Van Latta and his boss Jon Miller were saying to outsiders:

“Simply put, our staffing levels were bloated and hindered our ability to be an efficient and nimble team-oriented company,” CEO Owen Van Natta said in a statement....

“MySpace grew too big considering the realities of today’s marketplace,” said Jon Miller, News Corporation’s (NWS) CEO of Digital Media.

Now the inside and outside statements are not factually contradictory, but there's a clear difference in tone.

What if you switched the statements around, and had Van Natta and Miller tell investors that they're jettisoning "friends and colleagues who contributed to MySpace's success," and then tell the MySpace employees that "staffing levels were bloated" and "MySpace grew too big"?

I haven't seen how MySpace employees have reacted to the difference in tone of the two messages, but someone clearly fumbled here. (And it appears that @kbardeesy at the Globe & Mail is trying to solicit messages from laid-off MySpace employees.)

You need to give the same message to ALL stakeholders.
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