Bad communication can have dire consequences. Remember Gerald Ratner’s remark about his company’s poor products that led to its near collapse? Or US Vice President Dan Quayle correcting a student’s spelling of potato by adding an incorrect ‘e’ at the end.
Whether like Ratner you’re naive enough to think your speech won’t be reported or you suffer from Quayle’s phonetic fatigue, their gaffes remind us that common sense is essential in communication.
Yesterday, I learned the lesson again when I pitched up at a well-known company to donate blood at a mobile NHS unit. The vehicle wasn’t in the host firm’s car park. Instead, it was parked on the other side of the road at Daewoo’s offices.
One of the NHS team stood outside the booked venue and asked me to return in half an hour while they set up.
“No one in the host company knows about us, even though we sent a letter and it’s advertised everywhere. No-one’s taking responsibility and the security guard won’t let us in,” she said. “So we’re phoning everyone with an appointment and asking them to come back later.”
Anyone with an ounce of common sense would have let the unit stay, even without a letter. It wasn’t the first time the firm had hosted the NHS and what harm could it do? The car park had room but the unit was refused because it meant the team would have to periodically come into the building to use bathroom facilities.
Luckily for the NHS, and its donors, someone at Daewoo had sounder judgement and let them stay without a fuss.
Granted, minor incidents like these don’t have the impact of a Ratner or Quayle remark but they’re unnecessary and can harm corporate reputations.
It takes a lot of effort on my part in finding time to donate blood and I was annoyed with the company for the inconvenience it caused me, other donors and the NHS staff who do such a great job.
As for Daewoo, it gets my vote for providing a common-sense solution that saved the day.