Magazine article Workforce

A Black Hole in Corporate Communication

Magazine article Workforce

A Black Hole in Corporate Communication

Article excerpt

The Buzz

I was in New York last week with my friend Ray, who works for a multinational financial services firm. He and his coworkers from around the country had gathered in the city for a week to review marketing plans and revenue goals. Which they did. But during the meetings, the Pooh-Bahs in his division also cryptically mentioned the possibility of a division-wide restructuring. Something they called a "re-org."

After the second day of meetings, I returned to the Embassy Suites to find Ray sitting on the couch, staring into space, his shirt rumpled and untucked.

This worried me. Ray is never rumpled. I asked if he was okay.

"What do they mean by re-org?" he asked, still staring straight ahead. "I'll tell you what they mean. They mean job cuts. I think I'm okay-but maybe not. Maybe I'm not okay. Do you think I'm okay?" He didn't wait for an answer. "I should've talked more during the meeting today," he said. "I should've gone to the dinner last night. I should've worn black shoes. I looked too casual."

I told him I thought layoffs were rarely decided on the basis of shoe color.

"YOU don't know these people," he shouted, as red blotches bloomed across his neck. "I just don't understand why they're doing this."

Ray crossed his arms over his chest and began rocking back and forth, clearly on the edge of a galeforce panic attack. I tiptoed from the room and shut the door. From down the hallway, I could hear him repeating the phrase "re-org, re-org, re-org" like a stuck 45 on a diner jukebox.

At the time, I felt that Ray's behavior was a tad extreme. After all, his company's restructuring was far from certain-and besides, no one knew what it would entail. But the next day I went to an exhibit on Albert Einstein at the American Museum of Natural History and experienced, firsthand, the panic and conjecture that come from not knowing how to interpret information. Physics will do that to you.

The exhibit started off well enough. I entered the hushed museum and learned about Einstein as a young boy. I reviewed a copy of his report card, which refutes the myth that he was not a motivated child. I saw a replica of the compass that launched Einstein's fascination with the forces of nature. And, in something that belongs in the "who knew?" category, I read one of the many love letters he wrote to one of his many mistresses. Apparently, Einstein was a hottie in his day, a babe-magnet with a large romantic appetite. …

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