Musk’s employee communications beg the question – should a bad phase call for a bad phrase? – The Economic Times

lipped from: https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/company/corporate-trends/musks-employee-communications-beg-the-question-should-a-bad-phase-call-for-a-bad-phrase/articleshow/95478666.cms

Synopsis

Shankar Prasad, founder-CEO, Plum, feels that super bad is a “dark and scary” phrase. He would think twice about using it in a professional interaction. “It would show a lack of confidence, when people are looking for solutions from me and not an amplification of the problem,” he says.

Though the phrase ‘super bad feeling’ was used by Elon Musk while communicating with Tesla employees in June this year, it could well encapsulate the tumultuous happenings at Twitter where after the recent mass layoffs, he has now told workers that “the economic picture ahead is dire”.

Flashback to his June email. Musk directed that his company Tesla pause all hiring worldwide as he had a “super bad feeling” about the economy. A regular bad feeling coming from the world’s richest man (with a current fortune of $183 billion) would make anyone pay notice. Throw in the word super and it doesn’t leave much room for confidence in a professional world.

You could argue that Musk has been in a super bad space for months – he was forced to go back to his $44-billion deal with Twitter and is now facing a lawsuit for firing 3,700 employees. Meanwhile, his $56-billion Tesla pay package dispute is going to trial soon. And yet, however, dark the cloud, should Musk – or any other boss looking to announce bad tidings – have toned down his language to his employees?

Word’s worth
Shankar Prasad, founder-CEO, Plum, feels that super bad is a “dark and scary” phrase. He would think twice about using it in a professional interaction. “It would show a lack of confidence, when people are looking for solutions from me and not an amplification of the problem,” he says.

But Prasad does understand the sentiment. “I would think something is super bad when more than eight out of 10 things we’ve planned aren’t going well. Three or four out of 10 not going to plan is par for the course,” he says, revealing that he had such a feeling when the company missed their business targets. “But when you look at the bigger picture, you realise that it’s not as pessimistic as it seems,” he says.

Neeraj Bahl, CEO, India & SAARC, BSH Home Appliances, also agrees that super bad is negative and should be avoided in work conversations. “It brings to mind a dark picture – everything from an apocalypse to India losing a crucial match,” says Bahl, adding that as a leader, it is his responsibility to “sense the headwinds that alert a bad situation”.

It’s certainly not a phrase Vishal Gondal, CEO at GOQii, says he would ever use – he finds it too reactive. “First, having a super bad feeling about something shows your reaction to the situation – not the situation itself,” points out Gondal. “I would not use it in a business context because it kind of indicates your emotional state rather than the situation,” he adds.

Truth bombs
However, not everyone thinks Musk was extravagant with his phrasing. Sabeer Bhatia, Hotmail co-founder and now CEO of Showreel, says people in the US do not mince words. “They use instinct to predict what is going to happen. Elon is doing just that; I find it ‘being honest’ about his feelings,” shares Bhatia.

Suhasini Sampath, CEO, Yogabar, feels that while Musk’s choice of words may be strong, the sentiment behind the phrase has been echoed by various people across industries. “Whether it is by using phrases such as ‘winter is coming’ or ‘super bad feeling’, I would not call it harsh. It resonates with the times we live in.”

For Sampath, a super bad feeling amounts to unrest in the world. “With the lack of gun laws, abortion laws, war in Ukraine, or various other environmental issues, we are failing at a humanitarian level. We own the responsibility of passing on an atmosphere of health, inclusiveness and love to the next generation,” she says.

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