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Every employee becomes the face of the organization which they are part of, with all of their actions affecting the image of their firm in either a positive or a negative way. While the effect, which a junior staff member may have, could be less than that of a top manager or a CEO, it is still necessary to adhere to a strict code of conduct. Complying with pre-outlined communication rules allows avoiding easily foreseeable faux pas that may divert the attention of consumers from the business’ products to a competitor who may seem more cultured.
Responding impulsively to outside queries regarding the company’s internal functioning could easily create a negative image of it, resulting in serious business repercussions (Lievens, 2017). Therefore, it is imperative to understand individual actions’ effect as an assistant to one of the managers of a major European luxury garment and accessories firm whom a documentary-maker has put into an uncomfortable position. Furthermore, this retrospection may allow devising alternate ways of behaving as a company.
Effect on the Image of the Firm
Responding to provocative comments in a way that the questioner anticipates could never be a sound idea, as it places the person who is answering in a helpless and cornered position. Thus, when acting as a company representative, which means all the time in a culture of corporate social responsibility (CSR), it is essential to recognize the extent to which the firm’s reputation may be affected (Pistoni, Songini, & Perrone, 2016).
Responding rashly to provocative questions and slighting comments may create a negative view of the company through the attribution of personal characteristics to the company as a whole. While building a company’s image is a gradual process, and there are many steps before a business may encounter a point of crisis, lessening an enterprise’s prestige is an every-day possibility that is best avoided (Benoit, 2015; Lievens, 2017). Therefore, as a manager’s assistant and a higher-standing company staff member, it is imperative to prevent damage to the way consumers perceive the business, as this action could directly affect one’s workplace.
If any damage is done to the reputation of a firm, despite all efforts, restoring people’s confidence in it may not be an effortless process. In the modern world, information becomes viral quickly and, thus, having concrete evidence of the interaction in the form of video and audio recordings, a filmmaker may control the presentation of the acquired information (Pistoni et al., 2016). While a company’s image is always changing, consciously manipulating it to suit potential advantages may be complicated (Lievens, 2017). Contemporary business is a fast-paced endeavor, which demands quick reaction times from companies that want to remain competitive in all aspects (Daft, 2016).
Defined as “defensive messages developed after the crisis emerges that hopefully resolve it,” image repair is a strenuous and often self-conflicting process, which not every business can carry out effectively and quickly (Benoit, 2015, p. 47). Therefore, preventing and preparing for such possible attacks is in a company’s best interests, reflected in the preparedness of their representatives to respond to possibly defamatory questions with equity.
Alternative Ways of Responding as a Company
A scenario where a filmmaker, who is eager to bring potential misconduct to light, ambushes a higher-standing company official to generate material for their evidence may be a common one. Refuting alleged claims may be difficult, especially if the business does participate in questionable activities, for example, outsourcing jobs to increase profits by paying lower wages in poorer countries (Daft, 2016). Benoit (2015) outlines a variety of ways how a firm may respond to potentially defaming information, such as issuing official statements and messages that use “denial, corrective action, shifting blame, bolstering, and good intentions” (p. 49).
Since every undertaken communicative measure should hold be useful, within and without a company, identifying a common goal for the actions outlined above may permit attaining the best results (Benoit, 2015; Zerfass & Viertmann, 2017). Responding as a firm to those questions, which have achieved a resonance among the public, rather than allowing one employee to represent the business’ stance, may be a practical approach to maintaining a competent image.
No filmmaker, however, would assail lower-standing company employees for exciting information, as the chances of this happening may be low, and instead attempting to surprise those with higher-standing staff posts, as indicated in the assigned case. Responding brashly from a managerial position could negatively affect “the general public’s affective evaluation of the organization,” leading not only to decreased investments but also to a drop in the company’s applicant pool (Lievens, 2017, p. 1117).
This factor further deepens the possible repercussions of being unprepared and impulsive in communications with the press, the public, or even at company conferences. Therefore, sustaining CSR may allow achieving previously unavailable business advantages (Pistoni et al., 2016). Thus, preparing immediate and seemingly in-the-moment responses is key to maintaining a positive company image, and responding using any of the methods outlined by Benoit (2015) could be a way to gain situational control. Avoiding being surprised by uncomfortable questions through thorough preparation is the ultimate goal of companies that want to maintain their place on the market.
How to Prepare for Similar Situations
When pressed with inquiries about its divisions and suppliers, a business must be ready so that these questions are not sudden or unexpected. Internal and external pressures on companies never disappear, and a firm’s image is never stable, affected by each occurring event (Lievens, 2017; Pistoni et al., 2016). In the corporate world, readiness is critical, and being qualified to counter awkward questions with grace may be an essential skill for any significant company position (Keyton, 2014). Daft (2016) defines organizational culture as “particular values that characterize how people should behave and how the organization carries out everyday business” (p. 385).
Being a productive part of this construct necessitates mastering and understating a company’s “relevant constructs, facts, practices, vocabulary, metaphors, stories, and rites and rituals,” say Pacanowsky and O’Donnell-Trujillo (as cited in Keyton, 2014, p. 129). Therefore, to prepare for troublesome situations, it may be necessary to understand the firm’s perspective on current relevant issues, recognize one’s role as its representative, and, finally, put corporate interests above merely personal inclinations.
Situations similar to those of the assigned case study will continue to happen, as every person pursues their own goals, making those who join to pursue a common objective possibly more successful. The most beneficial approach may be to create a “strategy and structural design that the organization needs to be effective within its environment” (Daft, 2016, p. 393). Actions, which necessitate a firm grip on a company’s target to give motivation to each action, are “enabling operations, building intangibles, ensuring flexibility, and adjusting strategy” (Zerfass & Viertmann, 2017, p. 73).
Thus, communication is brought to the forefront of a company’s list of concerns, allowing employees to not only respond to external accusations but also take control of the situation to benefit their employer and business (Keyton, 2014). Furthermore, outlining goals for each staff member in addition to the company’s future orientation as a whole allows establishing continuity of actions (Zerfass & Viertmann, 2017). Fending off provocative filmmakers becomes a matter of being prepared and backed by company protocol.
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The business world is a constant struggle to maintain a company’s good image and reputation, while continuing to sustain profitability and respectability, thus creating a dangerous competitive environment where every action is an influential factor. Recognizing this and being ready to withstand questions and allegations with a variety of tools, from personal integrity to company-backed messages, is an essential managerial skill, without which handling a company’s affairs may be difficult. Knowing the different pathways of communication both internal and external could be the difference between sustaining a firm’s perceptibility on the market or a constant generation of organizational culture crisis points, losing a competitive advantage.
Becoming irrelevant on the market may effectively bankrupt a business. Therefore, responding uncontrollably and unpredictably to questions that are aimed to elicit a response, disclosing demeaning information, or demonstrating the company in an unfavorable light is unacceptable for an assistant to a top-standing manager. Recognizing one’s role as a company representative, thus, becomes an essential professional skill, which distinguishes successful executives from merely aspiring entrepreneurs.
Benoit, W. L. (2015). Accounts, excuses, and apologies: Image repair theory and research (2nd ed.). Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.
Daft, R. L. (2016). Organization theory and design (12th ed.). Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.
Keyton, J. (2014). Communication, organizational culture, and organizational climate. In K. M. Barbera & B. Schneider (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of organizational climate and culture (pp. 118-135). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Lievens, F. (2017). Organizational image/reputation. In S. Rogelberg & C.L. Reeve (Eds.), The encyclopedia of industrial and organizational psychology (2nd ed., pp. 1116-1118). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Pistoni, A., Songini, L., & Perrone, O. (2016). The how and why of a firm’s approach to CSR and sustainability: A case study of a large European company. Journal of Management and Governance, 20(3), 655-685. Web.
Zerfass, A., & Viertmann, C. (2017). Creating business value through corporate communication: A theory-based framework and its practical application. Journal of Communication Management, 21(1), 68-81. Web.