Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Pet Peeves - Organizational Etiquette

Just briefly, it's darned poor form to mix personal issues/views/advocacies with organizational ones, and this is particularly annoying when someone in a current position of leadership does so.

It's *important* to be really clear with the public and with ones self regarding the difference between the positions of "John Doe the person who happens to be the leader of this'n'that organization vs. JOHN DOE SPEAKING AS THE LEADER AND SPOKESMAN FOR THIS'N'THAT organization". The rules are somewhat different for "ex-leaders/members".

In the first instance, one either does not utilize whatever organizational titles one holds OR one specifically distances oneself from ones organizational role when making the statement - "Speaking purely as a private individual, and not in any way speaking for the views of This'n'That, I think Joe Blow should take a flying leap because he's a raving ass" makes very clear one is speaking only for ones self, not for our example group "This'n'That" - if one feels so strongly about a topic one must speak to it in the first place, even though it may tar the organization you support, this is an acceptable compromise.

In the second instance, one should only speak in consultation with the group one represents or in clear agreement with pre-established speaking points - THEN you use the titles, organizational name, and any appropriate formal titles. You are, after all, in these circumstances speaking as the official voice of an organization - the members have *agreed* to let you represent them in a narrow range of matters in a specific set of positions or in close accordance with a set of guidelines.

What you *do not do* is simply tear off a letter to every official and/or media source in sight simply because you're mightily peeved by one topic or another at a personal level utilizing the name of the organization you lead and any titles you hold therein. An example of this badness, would be the President of a Dog Shelter tearing off on his/her own initiative to advocate mandatory abortions for all mom's making less than 40k/yr - using his/her title and organizational affiliation for extra oomph and leaving those outside the Dog Shelter inner circle completely unaware that this was *NOT* the position or mission of the Dog Shelter.

Former leaders are a different creature - as former, they return to "I don't represent the views o the organization I once lead", but they retain some portion of the mana they had while serving - so they *might* write a newspaper column that mentioned their former organizational affiliations, and this would be acceptable - precisely as long as they made clear the operational phrase was "former" and they do not speak for the group in question at this time.

To do otherwise is to undermine the organization in question in the short term, to diminish trust in the leadership of the speaker in question in the middle term, and to diminish trust within the organization (and outside of the organization, if it really hits the fan) in the long term.

A bad business and a bad choice all the way around, and it really peeves me when folks who OUGHT TO KNOW BETTER engage in this sort of self and organizationally destructive conduct, no matter how noble their intent - for it is merely a less dramatic form of "extend YOUR foot so I can shoot it, so that I have somebody to feel bad with when I shoot myself in the foot in this noble cause".


No comments: