Management

Lessons From the BP Oil Spill

Eight ways to reconnect after a disaster.

August 05, 2010
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3. Step up and take responsibility.

An important part of reconnecting after a disaster is accepting responsibility. Johnson & Johnson’s quick acceptance of responsibility is one reason the company was able to recover so handily after the Tylenol scare, says Kuzmeski. Unfortunately, in the case of the BP spill, the company has only reluctantly taken responsibility for what happened.

“Especially during the early days of the spill, there was a lot of finger-pointing between the companies involved in the spill,” she says. “No one wanted to say it was their fault. BP should have recognized that no matter whose fault it was it was going to come down to BP to fix it. BP should have taken responsibility from the get-go and said, ‘There was an accident. It’s horrible. We apologize for our role in this disaster, and we’re committed to doing everything we can to fix it as quickly as possible.’

“The government too has seemed to try to deflect responsibility for its role,” she adds. “It was almost two months before the president openly acknowledged that the mismanagement of the Minerals Management Service played at least some role in the events leading up to the rig explosion and the spill. Until someone takes responsibility for the disaster, the public doesn’t feel there’s anyone fully in charge of fixing the problem.”

4. Remember that quantity and quality of communication count.

In a crisis, quality of communication is important, but so is quantity. Any company facing a disaster must stay in front of the public and keep them constantly informed. In the case of the oil spill, the U.S. government too needs to be steadfast in its efforts to stay in front of the people—after all, the spill stands to damage the livelihoods of U.S. citizens in addition to the long-lasting effects it will have on the environment.

“When there’s a lack of sufficient communication, the result is anger,” says Kuzmeski. “And when you’re dealing with a disaster, anger is no good. The anger causes a major roadblock and makes it difficult to connect. Even if you eventually get it right, it takes a long time for that anger to subside.” 

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Great article! Unfortunately, most employees don’t feel valued or appreciated by their supervisors or employers. In fact, research has shown that the predominant reason team members quit their jobs is because they don’t feel valued. This is in spite of the fact that employee recognition programs have proliferated in the workplace – over 90% of all organizations in the U.S. has some form of employee recognition activities in place. But most employee recognition programs are viewed with skepticism and cynicism – because they aren’t viewed as being genuine in their communication of appreciation. Getting the “employee of the month” award, receiving a certificate of recognition, or a “Way to go, team!” email just don’t get the job done. How do you communicate authentic appreciation? We have found people have different ways that they want to be shown appreciation, and if you don’t communicate in the language of appreciation important to them, you essentially “miss the mark”. Additionally, employees need to receive recognition more than once a year at their performance review. Otherwise, they view the praise as “going through the motions”. A third component of authentic appreciation is that the communication has to be about them personally – not the department, not their group, but something they did. Finally, they have to believe that you mean what you say. How you treat them has to match the words you use. If you are not sure how your team members want to be shown appreciation, the Motivating By Appreciation Inventory (www.appreciationatwork.com/assess) will identify the language of appreciation and specific actions preferred by each employee. You then can create a group profile for your team, so everyone knows how to encourage one another. Remember, employees want to know that they are valued for what they contribute to the success of the organization. And communicating authentic appreciation in the ways they desire it can make the difference between keeping your quality team members or having a negative work environment that everyone wants to leave. Paul White, Ph.D., is the co-author of The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace with Dr. Gary Chapman.

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