The Few & the Many: Free Trade, Outsourcing, & Communication

Have you noticed that some sound ideas get bad publicity? Two I have in mind are outsourcing and free trade.

No doubt you could name others, but looking at these two initiatives helps us understand a communication challenge for many companies and not-for-profit organizations.

Free trade and outsourcing both produce a few (well, relatively few) big losers, and many (very many) small winners.

More specifically, free trade leads to big losses for a relatively small number of companies and their employees. Companies can go out of business or be forced to drastically restructure; employees can lose their jobs. The adjustment pains they suffer are very real and very significant.

On the other hand, all consumers in a country that adopts free trade are winners. In other words, just about everybody. The gains for each person are small, yet, taken together those gains far outweigh the losses suffered by the losers. And the gains keep paying dividends year after year.

The story is much the same for outsourcing. A few employees take a very big hit, losing their jobs. At the same time, though, a lot of other employees get to keep their jobs because their companies become stronger. A few suffer for the many.

Which do you hear more about? You hear far more about the losers, of course. Why? Well, as a former news writer and announcer I can tell you that losers holler louder and longer. They actively seek media coverage. And that's not all: stories about layoffs have an inherent drama that stories about the preservation of jobs just can't match.

In addition, small-scale winners often don't know they've won, how they've won, or what they've won, so they don't march in protest or call news conferences. Add to that the general principle that good news isn't big news.

What do you do if you face a decision leading to many small winners and a few big losers? First, hammer away at the context, at the circumstances that drive the decision. For example, don't announce to employees that a new piece of equipment that does the work of three people will make you more efficient. Rather, explain the competitive pressures that force greater efficiency, and the consequences of failing to meet those pressures.

Don't assume everyone shares your knowledge. Few stakeholders understand the broader picture, and even if they could, the pressure of day-to-day events may keep them focused on just one piece of it. It's essential to start with as few assumptions as possible.

Communicate frequently: in advance, during, and afterward. Explain the problem, outline the options, list the decision criteria, announce the solution, and report on how well the solution has worked. Or not worked, which becomes the new problem.

You won't convince everyone your decision is the right one, but you might convince enough people to make further progress possible.

In summary, when a few people suffer big losses and many others make small gains, you can expect the losers to complain very loudly, and the winners to say little or nothing. To deal with these situations, communicate frequently and carefully.

Robert F. Abbott writes and publishes Abbott's Communication Letter. If you subscribe, you will receive, at no charge, communication tips that help you lead or manage more effectively. You can get more information here: http://www.Communication-Newsletter.com

In The News:


pen paper and inkwell


cat break through


Better Management Performance - The Easy 3-Step Way

Managers make three mistakes when they try to run businesses.... Read More

Why Would Anyone Do That in My Meeting?

Imagine that you open a meeting by saying, "We need... Read More

Are You the Culprit?

Are you a business, non-profit or association manager who pretty... Read More

Look Good on Voice Mail

Your use of voice mail tells others a lot about... Read More

Why Employees Are the Best Source of Cost-cutting Ideas

Cost cutting has become a necessary and important reality in... Read More

Is It Worth To Outsource? How One Can Outsource Wisely

Recent trends in software development market show that it is... Read More

Tales from the Corporate Frontlines: Human Resources at Work

This article relates to the Human Resource Functions competency, commonly... Read More

CRM ...The Emperors New Clothes

The story of the emperor's new clothes is a fairy... Read More

Tales from the Corporate Frontlines:Choosing an Effective Employee Recognition Program

This article relates to the Recognition competency, commonly evaluated in... Read More

The Communications Myth

Living in the 21st Century is truly marvelous, isn't it?... Read More

Knowledge Management - Keys to Successful Communities of Practice (Networks)

How can I make my community of practice truly effective?How... Read More

Creative People, Innovative People

The title implies that some people are and others not.This... Read More

Lone Rangers Suffer without Tonto

A lone ranger is someone who prefers working in solitude... Read More

3 Simple Things the Best Managers Do - And You Can Too!

If it's so simple, why don't managers all over the... Read More

Effective Meetings by Phone - Part 1, How to Plan a Teleconference

Teleconferences can be a boon or a bust. On the... Read More

On the Road to Assertiveness

Learning to be assertive takes time, courage and the ability... Read More

Performance Management Made Easy

Performance Management is a process that both employer and employee... Read More

Forget The Sandwich Technique

Do you remember being told to use the "sandwich" technique... Read More

Meetings and Road Trips

Managing a meeting is like setting off on a long... Read More

Déjà Vu MCI to Qwest International Inc: Can this Corporate Marriage Survive?

Current Situation:As of this writing, the MCI Board of Governors... Read More

When Change Is In the Wind...Heads Up!

In these days of takeovers and mergers, of downsizings and... Read More

Directed Introspection

One of the greatest obstacles to progress can often be... Read More

How To Learn Great Management from Our Kids

Learning comes from many places. And one of the most... Read More

The Comfort Zone

The Comfort Zone I... Read More

Effective Multi Cultural International Business Meetings

Of the many areas in international business where cultural differences... Read More

What to do When You receive a Bad Check

As a small business operator, personal checks may be one... Read More

Are you NICE or do you CARE?

Are you NICE or do you CARE? ... Read More

Five Steps to Increase the People Power in Your Business

Take some bold steps and help your employees and business... Read More

Invoice Factoring for Goverment Vendors

Assignment of Claims Act of 1986"....What does this mean for... Read More

Five Principles of Effective Communication

The problem with communication is the illusion that it has... Read More

Giving a Good Appraisal Interview

Although this performance discussion is an opportunity for you to... Read More

Bolster Credibility with Investors--Avoid These Phrases in Your Business Plan

Remember Papa John's commercial on TV with the slogan "Better... Read More

Communicating In Chaotic Environments

How do you, or would you, communicate in a chaotic... Read More