Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Got Communications?

I was struck by the comments of Nathaniel Pierce here at The Episcopal Café. He is right. The Episcopal Church Communications staff could so easily have managed this story, if only they had been honest and open – if only they had run their business according to Biblical principles. They could have been honest. They could have shared the news with all of us – or at least with the Executive Council. But they didn't.

And who is in charge? Linda Watt, Chief Operating Officer, is in charge. She needs to be held accountable for her hideous mismanagement of the story. She failed to use responsible communications that could have saved us this travesty.

Here's what Nathaniel Pierce wrote:

... imagine a different scenario. The Church Center puts out a public statement in early January. It says something like this:

-- describes the RFP process

-- speaks candidly about the business issues involved

-- acknowledges D-047 passed by ... GC and its relevance to this situation

-- identifies the various issues which were weighed by TEC staff, especially union vs. non-union

-- announces decision; notes that new firm is minority owned, has a strong record of treating employees fairly

-- shares how the Church Center said good-bye to those who had served there, some for many years

Now then, what would have been accomplished by such a scenario?

1) TEC puts the story out there -- we are ahead of the curve (this is PR 101). This avoids being put in the position of reacting to a bombshell story.

2) TEC demonstrates its sensitivity to the issues involved, thereby avoiding the appearance of being deaf to the social justice ramifications

3) A feeling of openness and transparency is communicated to traditionally skeptical folks like me.

4) What is left to criticize? Decent folks clearly struggled with all the issues and then made a decision. I might disagree with the outcome, but would feel comforted by the fact that all the important issues were considered.

Nathaniel Pierce is correct. That would have been responsible and honest. But that’s not the course Linda Watt chose. Why didn’t she? Time and again, she opts for duplicity. Why does she never opt for transparency with our church?

My friends, she has run rough-shod over many faithful employees at our Church Center. This is just the most recent in a long series of bad judgments.


Blogger Kirkepiscatoid said...

Lisa, thank you for your several posts on this news.

I'm being rather silent and slow to react viscerally on this one, and istening carefully, because I have a feeling there is more to this story. The fact this does not hit the papers until a month later tells me there is more about this story globally that is not being told, and not just at the 815 level. I don't know what that is, but I can see many angles on this one.

I say that with very mixed emotions. My dad worked all his working life as a union bricklayer, and I learned to "look for the union label," and became very attuned to the social justice aspects of labor. But I have also been in the position of removing employess who were abusive to me and my staff under the name of "centralization of services" and taken the bad gossip rap silently because people just didn't know.

I am seriously wondering what the details between the head of the cleaning company and the contact people at 815 were. I wonder what the personal interactions were like. I am open to the possibility that "all may not be what it seems on the surface" and that there could have been an acrimonious relationship between 815 and the head of the cleaning service.

I definitely feel for the plight of the workers and pray they find employment soon. I'm not saying 815 didn't make some stupid moves. I'm just saying I've been on both sides of this one, and I've been the one to take the black eye silently because it wasn't the world's business that I found an easier way to remove an abuser that tried to threaten and strongarm me financially and personally.

But the story won't reveal itself unless people report it, and I am grateful you have researched the news on this in detail! You are a very diligent "boots on the ground" reporter, Lisa--must be that archival research background, eh?

2/09/2010 2:37 AM  
Blogger Göran Koch-Swahne said...

The situation is bad. And if "provoked" by bad circumstances, it's even badder.

And it's badly framed and presented. Not acceptable at all! A Church does not behave like this.

Prayers for all involved!

2/09/2010 4:10 AM  
Blogger Wormwood's Doxy said...

Lisa--I am grateful for your passion about this issue and for your willingness to ask hard questions.

I take Kirk's point that we may not have all the details, but in the wake of the mass firings from 815 last year, I am not sanguine that the "real" story is any prettier than this one.


2/09/2010 2:05 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

You put your finger on it, Göran: This is not how the church should behave.

Here's what I don't understand: Why does nobody in the TEC hierarchy seem to be taking this seriously? This story has made our church look wicked, and there's nothing coming from our leadership. I don't get it.

2/09/2010 9:15 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

KirkE, I appreciate your cautious attitude toward this story. You may be right that this boils down to a pissing match between Linda Watt and the union shop that had the contract.

But this I know: Linda Watt doesn't have the management skills of my newest-adopted kitten, whose response to everything is to bite and scratch.

BTW, like you, I have had some miserable, passive-agressive employees. I know what that's like.

I also know the people who have left TEC or been forced out during Watt's hob-nailed regime. They were good professionals -- Christian, Episcopalian. They're now unemployed, while Linda Watt got a pay raise this year.

2/09/2010 9:19 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Thanks, Doxy. I hope some others in management at TEC ... as well as Executive Council members ... will give this more attention. I believe there is some rotten in the executive suite of 815, and I want our Deputies and Executive Council to step in.

2/09/2010 9:21 PM  
Blogger Kirkepiscatoid said...

I'm a bit like Doxy. I do have a fear there is more than one ugly story in this. There almost always is.

2/10/2010 6:48 AM  

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