“As I looked at the aggressive nature of our plan, there was a set of people who didn’t fit the plan or didn’t have the right skill set or didn’t have the right attitude. We’re hiring like crazy for growth, so let’s get the wrong people off the bus.”

Executive Summary

CEOs often refer to employees as their "most valuable asset," but their public comments can belie that view. Patrick Hirigoyen, a veteran in public relations and corporate communications, interviewed his peers in the industry who revealed public comments from executives that lowered company morale. Here, he also presents expert tips for executives dealing with their first audience—their employees.

That’s how the CEO of a midsize, Minneapolis-based software company explained the reasons for layoffs at the firm to a local business publication late last year. His dismissive comment about people who were now out of work was criticized as:

Harsh and unnecessary. Risking the morale of employees still with the company. Sending the wrong message to prospective employees it needed to attract in a competitive economy.

The CEO forgot that, although his comments were made to a reporter outside the company, the first audience for his words was his own employees. They were sure to hear and carefully weigh what he was saying during a critical time for the firm.

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