Communications advice to all the people giving Marissa Mayer communications advice

Elementary student making be quiet gesture.It has been interesting, entertaining and alarming to see all the criticism coming at Yahoo and CEO Marissa Mayer following the leaked internal announcement from the company’s HR director to ban all telecommuting. Numerous “experts” have voiced their dismay at how the communications was handled.

Many of us enjoy being pundits and giving our opinion. Here is mine – unless you have inside information, have worked as Marissa Mayer’s communications coach, written a case study on Yahoo’s internal communications or have detailed performance evaluations of Yahoo’s different groups, it is probably best to be quiet.

External communications is one thing. Opining on how an article is written, an interview is conducted or a crisis is handled is fair game to criticize. For internal communications, unless one has real insider information, shouting out opinions from the social media and blogging rooftops is foolish.

I understand that there are many pros to telecommuting. I also know that despite all our technology and the communications tools that exist, face to face interaction can in many cases spur creativity and innovation better than any other means. For some organizations, telecommuting may make most sense. For others, it doesn’t.

Much of the criticism has been based on how morale amongst Yahoo’s telecommuters may be destroyed. Did these same people consider how effective these telecommuters have been to the company? Perhaps this group of telecommuters was underperforming and the goal of this communication was to encourage them to leave the company. For all the criticism, I haven’t seen any analysis of the telecommuters’ performance. Without knowing this, any further analysis is baseless.

Part of strategic and effective communications is knowing when to stand by and be quiet. In many cases, the best way to handle communications is to say nothing at all. Think about every time Apple launches a new product and nobody within the company says a word publicly until the product unveiling at a trade show. Or that sometimes, it makes sense for a leader to refrain from doing interviews. In some cases it is best to respond to criticism about one’s brand on social media, while other times it is advisable to stay silent.

As our mothers taught many of us, if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all. While there is no catchy phrase that I am aware of, our mothers would also instruct us on when to give our opinion based on the facts and when we should stay quiet. Too many people – especially communications experts – have forgotten our mothers’ words of wisdom in criticizing Yahoo.