When I discuss this issue with clients, we often turn to social media, press releases, media interviews etc and sometimes they’ll pull out brand guidelines or ‘tone of voice’ documents which they’ve developed.
All of these can be useful and have their place.
But what if we take the question literally…how does the business actually speak? How do the staff speak to each other? How do managers speak to their team?
I’ve just sent off a complaint email to a major high street retailer after hearing a manager haranguing a colleague – in front of customers – at one of its stores in Glasgow.
It was a disgraceful display of aggression and unprofessionalism and if the member of staff is subjected to this regularly then I’d suggest that amounts to bullying. Needless to say I left the store without buying my magazine and won’t return until my complaint is resolved.
One incident, involving one member of staff, has tarnished that brand, perhaps irreparably, in my eyes.
The way we speak says a great deal about our attitudes and values. How we treat people. How we see ourselves. And when we get it wrong – when the stress and pressure of the job is too much and spills over and we start snapping and barking at colleagues – we undo all the carefully thought through good work around social media, websites and PR campaigns.
And I’ve realised I’ve been guilty of this too. Last year, as many of you know, my wife Emma Baker joined our business full-time to lead on our corporate video and live event streaming activity. At a recent event, while setting up the equipment and with a tight deadline, I snapped at her while looking for a microphone in a way I never would have spoken to a client or other colleague. It was nothing like what I’ve just witnessed at that particular store, but it wasn’t good enough.
Let’s all endeavour to think about our tone and how we speak to each other. And if stress and pressure is causing us to behave in a way we know is less than our best, then we should take steps to deal with the underlying cause rather than taking it out on a colleague.