Bosses who talk too much or blab can hurt their businesses more than any cyber security leak ever could. The results can be disruptive enough to kill sales, drive away staff, prevent being granted a patent, or potentially kill the company.
They can also be harder to stop because frequently the boss doesn’t realize they’re doing it.
Big Mouth Examples
Here are eight of the worst blabbermouths and what happened (or could have happened) to their businesses. See if you recognize these or maybe you are guilty yourself.
• Sharing Secrets
The food manufacturer responded to a simple question from someone she just met by revealing her secret way to solve a major production problem. She was too proud of what the company had done to keep quiet about it. Good product but the idea of protecting trade secrets was foreign to her.
• Pre-Give Away
Startups are too eager to talk. Founders, even if they are not yet bosses, are the worst. One founder was so excited that he forgot to let the first potential client get a word in edgewise. He learned his lesson but it could have been a huge hit to his dream.
• Give Away
The computer hardware manufacturer kept giving away product and prototypes to his friends to use. No one knew where the inventory was or what was being copied. His business went under.
• Double Give Away
The same manufacturer also was notorious for giving “friend of X” pricing. He didn’t even do it consistently. That would at least have meant it was predictable and the CFO could have dealt with it. It drove the Sales Manager crazy because she’d quote one price and “the friend” would tell her that “the Boss” said it would be less. She finally quit from frustration just before a big national trade show.
• Emotional Dumping
The service company had legitimate complaints about suppliers. In public meetings, the boss kept sharing them with his customers. He drove people away because they no longer believed in the product or the company.
• Gloom and Doom
The world and what happens in it isn’t always right. Being politically active and engaged is important. But it can be too much. The owner who is too vocal all the time raises other questions. Stakeholders and customers can feel that the company is more concerned about politics than producing a good product and serving their needs.
Foot in Mouth Disease: Open Mouth, Insert Foot Up to the Knee
These next examples of “dangerspeak” are probably more familiar, especially to almost any Human Resource manager:
• Bad Employee Speak
Examples of “Bad Employee Speak” include talking, texting, or emailing people in or out of the company about fired or suspended employees in ways that are negative opinions but not facts. The courts have judged this to be defamation and charged the company and the perpetrator large fines (Gambardella v. Apple Health Care Inc.).
• Wrong Employee Speak
Talking, texting, or emailing people in and out of the company about employees in a suggestive way or in a way that would be offensive are examples of “Wrong Employee Speak”. Employees who’ve quit over this frequently win healthy harassment judgments (Harris v. Forklift Systems)
I’m sure there are more that should be added to this list.
What can you do?
- Knowing what to watch out for is a simple way to start. Add to this list of examples or refine it to suit what you see happening or what has happened.
- Put a process in place to prevent it from happening.
- If the danger is real, try to pair the Boss with someone who can step in and stop the blab-flow without offending any of the parties.
If you’re the boss, watch what you say. If you can’t control it, get an independent ear and eye to listen to you before you give that speech or read what you want to send out before you hit that button. You may have to go to the effort to get someone else to compose it using your concepts. It’s worth it to protect your company.
If you’re the boss of such a person, try counseling and training them. Put checks in place — don’t let let them talk to someone alone, read what they write, record what they say. Last resort: replace them or move them to some position where they can do less harm.
If you work for such a boss, there may be little you can do but look for another job because this business isn’t going anywhere.
As Walt Kelly’s cartoon character Pogo said to Porky, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”