In the past week there has been a tremendous PR buzz around the departure of co-host Michael Strahan from Live with Kelly Ripa and Michael, ABC’s flagship morning show. Ripa was upset about the way she was told of Strahan’s departure – at a meeting Strahan called to let her know after everything had been decided, with very little notice as he’s leaving in two weeks.
This late notice caught Ripa off guard, and the show unprepared to replace him; she was, unsurprisingly, unhappy. So unhappy that she disconnected from everyone, including her co-host, and didn’t return to work for 7 contentious days (two of those days were pre-planned vacation days).
Upon Ripa’s return, she was greeted with thundering applause so prolonged that she had to quiet the audience down before speaking. That applause was a very clear indication that her audience felt her pain. In her opening dialogue she addressed the fact that she’s stayed away from work saying that she needed a couple of days to gather her thoughts, adding:
After 26 years I earned the right.”
Ripa said that in her time off she gained some perspective and that her staying away had started something much bigger, a conversation about
communication, and consideration, and most importantly, respect in the workplace.”
Ripa said that she didn’t consider her show simply a workplace, but a second home. She talked about her co-workers and their loyalty to each other.
It appears that ABC, Ripa, and Strahan worked our their difficulties, at least enough to smooth things over and continue working together until Strahan’s departure. Lesson number one is that things can be worked out. But there are deeper lessons here….
- Taking a deep breath is sometimes essential. Not all of us have the star power or rank to take 7 days off when workplace tension gets so high that we can’t trust our own voice, but all of us have the right to take a time out to avoid saying something we will regret later. Despite the popularity of the concept that business isn’t about emotion, it actually is. Humans work in business – business by its very nature is a very human endeavor. We, humans, are emotional creatures and when we’re passionate about what we do there will be times that frustration, anger, or hurt will creep into our jobs.It is not only ok – it is sometimes essential – that we give ourselves the space to feel before we react to workplace pain.
- Employees often see their place of work as their second home – even if they are tense or struggling second homes. If employers expect and want the people who work for them to feel passionate about their business, they need to treat them and their business as if it is a community, a second home.
- The lack of communication is crippling. Often employers leave difficult issues undealt with for so long because they are afraid to tell their employees bad news, but the lack of communication is so much worse than facing up to it. In Ripa’s situation, the lack of communication blindsided the star and left her unprepared. Her interpretation of that lack of communication was disrespect, which is understandable.
What you are telling your employees when you don’t communicate with them is that they don’t matter. Their feelings don’t matter. Their opinions don’t matter. And in the end, THEY don’t matter.
Bad things happen in business. Difficult decisions must be made. Employees will be disappointed. These are facts that all of us accept when we go to work each day. But what is unacceptable is a lack of communication about the difficult issues. It smacks of cowardice, but even more, of disrespect.