Clear Comm Consulting

How to Address Your Team on Delicate Issues

Dec 1, 2016

The events of the last 30 days have sparked a lot of discussion about handling delicate issues at work. What happens when the topic of the Presidential election comes up and what if the discussion gets heated? What should leaders say, if anything, on this topic and is there an overall tone that can be suggested for the workplace?

A couple of examples have come forward that may spark thought and discussion in your workplace and, because this often comes down to communication style and tone, the Monthly Memo seems like the right forum to have a discussion. Also, as always, I try to avoid specific political discussions in this world – there are plenty of other places to talk that out.

GrubHub CEO Matt Maloney made headlines with his communication to his team shortly after the election. Maloney’s intention was to speak out against intolerance and hateful speech, but his line that followed that message is what got a lot of attention: “If you do not agree with this statement then please reply to this email with your resignation because you have no place here. We do not tolerate hateful attitudes on our team. I want to repeat what Hillary said this morning, that the new administration deserves our open minds and a chance to lead, but never stop believing that the fight for what’s right is worth it.”

To me, here is the mistake in this communication. Maloney has tied “resign” with a statement about what, “Hillary said this morning.” It’s hard for someone who voted for Donald Trump to not feel like they are “on the outside” at their workplace. When you lead a group – especially employees – you must remember the full impact your words will carry. So, let’s look at another example from a national firm’s CEO.

(I received this directly through the company so I am not revealing the name.)

        After acknowledging the difficulty of the election season and wishing it had not been so negative, the CEO said this: Now that the campaign is over, I simply want to say to all of you how deeply I care about all of you and your families. I care deeply that you see (this company) as a place that treats everyone with respect and honor … a place where differences are celebrated and strengthen our ability to serve clients. Some percent of (employees) hearts are broken, and some celebrate. But this note is not about winning or losing an election. It is not about rehashing who said or did what on the campaign trails or in the years before. It is simply my message to all of you to say I believe in you, I have enormous confidence in you, I care about you … and I promise to loyally and respectfully serve all of you with every ounce of my professional energy for every day I am honored to be the CEO…”

Work is about work. We have a customer to serve. This CEO chose to take a divisive time and use it as an opportunity to speak frankly about his feelings for the employees.

With both examples, important things to consider, especially in a time when it seems easier to think of how divided we are rather than the ways we can come together.


Follow along with Cary on Twitter @CaryPfeffer


Cary Pfeffer is the founder of ClearComm Consulting,, a Scottsdale, AZ communications consulting firm that helps people tell their story. He works with clients to make the most of their media and live audience communication. Email him at: [email protected].

Cary Pfeffer is the founder of ClearComm Consulting,, a Phoenix, AZ-based communications consulting firm which is helping people tell their story. He works with clients to make the most of their media and live audience communication. Email him at: [email protected].

Follow along with Cary on Twitter @CaryPfeffer

Advice on How to Connect in Business