Archive | November, 2011

Lack Of Communication

29 Nov

Penn State recently underwent a tremendous change in their college football program when they decided to fire the legendary Joe Paterno. Joe Paterno is the winningest coach in all of college football history, but because of a lack of communication Penn State fired him and terminated his historic 46-year run as head coach. One of Joe’s former defensive coordinators, Jerry Sandusky, allegedly committed felonies of child abuse spanning 15 years. Throughout these 15 years, Paterno allegedly saw at least one of these incidents happen and failed to report it to the proper authorities. When Paterno witnessed these events he told Penn State’s athletic director but not the police, and since he did not alert the correct people his reputation and icon is tarnished.

This example is something that can happen to an everyday person because of a lack of communication. Paterno was a coach for 46 years and he was fired unjustly and quickly once the news of the scandal spread. He was partially blamed for wrongdoing since he did not alert the police. If he properly communicated to the police, he would not be in this predicament and would still have his reputation intact. It is a shame since he is one of the most respected college football figures in all its history. If he communicated and acted when it was necessary, everything for him would be as it was. This example shows the need for communication whenever it’s relevant because one never knows the repercussions they may or may not face for not communicating properly. Whether this is an issue regarding the law or regarding an opinion or belief, communicating and talking will prevent any mishaps from occurring and help inform the public of what is really happening.

by Adam Kurtz


Press Conference Perception

29 Nov

One of the most commonly used mediums of communicating with the public is the press conference. Currently in Management Communication, teams are converting a sustainability presentation for a CEO into a press conference format and are facing many challenges.

These challenges include:

  • Conveying key messages in Q&A
  • Putting a positive spin on companies who have been lacking in sustainability
  • Presenting new proposals and ideas with energy and leadership

One other critical skill for the teams is maintaining an exuberant tone throughout the press conference. Enthusiasm will be important to exhibit in front of the media to deflect tough questions. The keys for this assignment will be to remain consistent with the important messages each group wants to get across during the press conference. It will be important to master this medium of communication for future success in the business world. Perception can be a powerful tool for a business to utilize and this assignment will help foster the necessary skills to portray the strengths of a company. One company that has dealt with the press successfully recently is Apple, who has sustained its image after the death of Steve Jobs.

by Andrew Martin

Why is Everyone Talking about Hiring?

28 Nov

Managers hate firing their employees, but Michael Maddock and Raphael Viton suggest they do it more often. An earlier blog post discussed how a few bad apples could ruin the whole bunch. Maddock and Viton go far beyond getting rid of slackers and employees who are disrespectful, suggesting three personality traits managers should look to remove from the workplace. A work environment meant to foster creativity and innovation has no place for Victims, Nonbelievers, and The know-it-alls.


Victims are often angry and annoyed from the minute they step into work for the start of their shift. Victims are always talking in a negative manner, asking why me or stating that they are not paid enough. Statements like these often have a spillover effect on other employees bringing down the whole work force.


Henry Ford famously said, “If you think you can or think you cannot, you are correct.” Nonbelievers do not push the limits of what is accomplishable, only getting by doing the bare minimum and shutting down creative ideas along the way.

The Know-it-alls

“The best innovators are learners, not knowers” (Maddock and Viton, 2). Learning by trial and error is fundamental to developing new ideas and making new discoveries. Know-it-alls lack the experiences that result from failing because they never take any chances themselves.

It is time to take the fear out of firing. Individuals with poor personalities and work habits kill creativity and innovation. Now more than ever are these two factors crucial for a successful company. Potential lawsuits and finding a replacement often frighten managers from removing hurtful employees. However, the benefits of a fun, energetic, and creative workplace outweigh the downsides. Now more than ever is the time for managers across the country to send a clear direct message. It is time to tell America’s employees that anything less than the best is unacceptable.

by David Williams

Previewing the Future of Performance Reviews

28 Nov

Employees will be overjoyed to learn that experts are now criticizing the dreaded performance review. This age-old office practice supposedly promotes increased productivity and performance within the office. However, business analysts claim that it in fact does the opposite. The root of this problem is that performance reviews ultimately create an environment that promotes poor communication.

Communication Breakdown before the Meeting Begins

The problem with performance reviews start before the meeting even begins. This is simply because both parties come to the table with different goals in mind. Bosses want to discuss things like productivity and performance, while employees are eying items like promotion and pay raises. These differing goals lead to a meeting where neither party is looking to achieve the same thing.

Chained by the Checklist

Another hallmark of the performance review is the inevitable employee evaluation. This evaluation often takes the form of a company-mandated checklist. The checklist system fails because it does not take into account that each employee has a unique set of skills that he/she brings to the company. Moreover, these checklists are often used across multiple types of employees, further generalizing the evaluation. This inevitably leads to a system that makes employees feel as if they are being evaluated unfairly.

Disrupting Teamwork

Teamwork is clearly important within the workplace. However, the performance review creates a setting where the boss holds all of the power. This imbalance does not encourage teamwork; rather it leads to employees spinning facts to appear as though they are workers that are more effective. Inevitably, with employees trying to mold facts and bosses striving to maintain a superior position, trust breaks down. In addition, without trust, the idea of teamwork cannot exist.

*Note the evaluation sheet on the table


“The Performance Preview”

The performance preview is a recently proposed model to eliminate many of the problems in performance reviews. This idea, created by Samuel A. Culbert of the Wall Street Journal, focuses on improving communication by bring the goals of both parties together. The model is deceptively simple. Bosses and employees meet informally to discuss the future of the company and what they can do to influence the organization.  By focusing on the future of the company, not on past employee performance, both parties communicate as a team in order to figure out what each can do to improve. Both employees and bosses are empowered by this because at the end of each meeting they reach clear conclusions that both people accept. Finally, in an informal meeting no checklist is necessary because there is no formal path the meeting should take. Each performance preview functions as a unique setting where communication, not evaluation, is the key to success.

by Gavin Boileau

Tom Bradley and the Penn State Scandal: Handling Crisis Communication

21 Nov

The sex abuse scandal that has enveloped Pennsylvania State University and the Penn State football team has been an unprecedented and unfortunate situation for all involved, especially the victims of this tragedy.  I will not going into much detail about the scandal, so if you need some background information, click on the link at the bottom of the post.

Such a situation is a haven for rumor-mongering and controversy-seeking by the media.  Every means of external communication from the university needs to be streamlined and effective to prevent this scandal from becoming even more damaging.  Interim head coach Tom Bradley’s initial press conference with the media on November 10th was a prime opportunity for the media to force Bradley into a corner to divulge some sensational information.  For an assistant coach being thrust right into the middle of one of the most controversial issues of recent memory, Bradley performed remarkably well in this press conference and displayed some great strategies to employ when in a moment where proper crisis communication is required.

Proper Tone

To start off the press conference, Bradley’s voice was very subdued and somber when discussing his sorrow for the victims of this tragedy.  By using such a tone, Bradley was able to provide believability towards his case.  He also addressed the victims and offered his condolences and prayers to them, only further adding to the believability for Bradley.

Deflect Tough Questions

As expected for such an important press conference for Penn State’s image, there were numerous questions posed by the media attempting to catch Bradley off guard with the hope of getting a scandalous quote for their news article.  He was well aware of the media’s tactics and continually deflected those tough questions.  When questioned about what he knows about an incident in 2002 as well as to comment upon his relationship with Jerry Sandusky, the subject of the scandal, Bradley declined to comment because of the “ongoing investigation”.  Reporters also asked whether he thought head coach Joe Paterno was fired fairly, or if it is appropriate to have assistant coach Mike McQuery to remain on the coaching staff.  For both instances, Bradley wisely chose to state these decisions were made by administration and he had nothing further to add. By deflecting these questions, Bradley was able to ensure that the key messages that Penn State wanted were covered and that any future controversy was avoided.

While facing such an unprecedented scandal with very minimal preparation, Tom Bradley gives us a great example of how to conduct ourselves in a stressful and uncomfortable press conference.  The techniques he employed allowed him to appear mournful while still ensuring that he was not pushed around by the media into giving them scandalous material for the evening news.  These are great suggestions to draw upon if you ever find yourself in a position similar to Mr. Bradley.


by Doug Guilfoy

Importance of Communication Outside of Business

21 Nov

Communication skills are not just important in business but also in sports. Since 1994, NFL coaches have been communicating the plays with the quarterback in the huddle through a headset in the player’s helmet. This addition to the sport was monumental in increasing the level of play and creating a future standard for generations to come.

Through greater communication, just as in business, NFL teams are able to use more strategy to better outsmart the opponent. However, the NFL realized that the offense was gaining an advantage over the defense because it possessed this increased in quality of communication. Therefore, in 2008, the NFL changed its policy and allowed for one defensive player to wear a headset as well. Presently, both the offenses and the defenses are on an even keel in terms of electronic communication. The headsets have altered the game forever and have become so vital to the current state of the sport that an extra equipment manager must be hired to ensure that the headsets are working.

Although the business world may be the most important forum for utilizing great communication skills, it is interesting to consider how better communication can enhance change other industries such as professional sports leagues.


by Lucas Grunberger

Business Writing vs. ‘Creative’ Writing: Where’s the Common Ground?

21 Nov

All I learned to write in high school was the five paragraph essay. I got by using the same intro, three body paragraphs, and copy-pasted conclusions for four years of my education. Now writing is not so simple. As a student enrolled in both a Business Communication and a Creative Writing course this semester, I am learning to write in two completely opposite forms simultaneously. On the one hand, business communication teaches you to write in a concise, active voice—a formal, if cordial, tone that states only the necessary and nothing more. In creative writing, that same voice is reviled as stillborn and one-dimensional.

How can business communication and so called ‘literary prose’ be reconciled? The truth is, to some extent, they can’t be. However, I think that you need a little bit of both to be a truly effective communicator, and they overlap in several areas.

Economy of Writing

Hemingway was an author famous for his prose: tough, terse, and simple sentences often characterized by understatement. He was able to eloquently communicate ideas about war, love, life, and death, often with only a few sentences. His message was more effective because it was brief. This works in business communications as well. In business, writing should only communicate what is absolutely necessary, and a good writer in either field takes care in leaving out the extraneous.


Flannery O’Connor once said that for a third-person story to survive, it “should never be told colloquially” (Rubin, 2007). Of course, there are exceptions, but on the whole she was right; esoteric writing by nature limits the understanding of the audience. It has to be readable. Nobody wants to read something that is full of slang they do not understand, precisely because they do not understand it.  O’Connor’s advice applies to business writing as much as short stories. Write clearly and in plain English.


James Thurber, writer for the New Yorker, claimed “a first draft is just for size” (Thurber, 1940). Business writing must be proofread for grammar and spelling to be effective. When typos appear in any form of e-mail, memo, or postmodern prose, the effect is the same: a sloppy, unprofessional, and disrespectful attitude toward the reader.

It’s tough to compare, say, the modernist writer James Joyce with a modern corporate executive and find a whole lot of common ground. But in personal and business communication, whether letters to friends or essays defending his work, Joyce could agree with the CEO—simple, understandable, and proofread communication is important in delivering an effective message. Following these three points will improve anyone’s business (or fiction) writing.

by Brian Wang