How not to run a virtual town hall


So this channel is just for the speakers to communicate on? Good. Right, how many of our treasured colleagues are on the call? Looks like we have enough to begin. And the sooner we start, the sooner we can get back to doing some proper work.

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Good afternoon, everyone! Welcome to our monthly virtual town hall. As you know, “candour” is one of our core values. That is why I really look forward to these opportunities to hear from every member of our team around the world. Jeff, our cfo, will start by giving you an update about the state of the business and then we’ll have a special presentation from Cynthia, our head of people, about psychological safety. Then questions. Jeff, over to you for the numbers.

Jeff, I know it’s been a bad month but we don’t need to see it written all over your face. Please can you look happier? Actually, forget it. You just look constipated.

Thank you so much, Jeff. He did not sugar-coat the numbers but facing up to reality is the first step to improvement. As I like to say, candour is a mixture of “can do” and some other letters. I am so grateful to everyone on the team for their hard work; I have no doubt that we will pull through this difficult period.

Now Cynthia is going to talk to us about psychological safety. This is so important to us that we decided last year to make it not just one of our core values, but two of them: “Psychological” and “Safety”. I honestly think no other company in the world would do that.

While Cynthia talks, a quick reminder to ask questions. We have some that were submitted before this town hall but you can also use the q&a channel, where I’ll select the best ones. Please do participate: as I like to say, “voice is a choice.”

OK, let’s see what they are moaning about this month. Vivian, can you take a note of everyone who brings up my pay? Unionisation: no. Court case: no way. “Why aren’t the questions open for everyone to see?” I love that they still ask this one.

Thank you for that, Cynthia. Psychological safety means that we cannot move forward as a group if we do not question and challenge each other without fear of the consequences. I’m so proud of leading the way towards a culture that I like to think of as total ps.

What do you mean, the questions are open to everyone to see? People can tell what questions I am ignoring? How many times do I have to spell things out to you morons? Let’s go to one of the questions we had agreed before. The do-gooding one.

As you know we ask people to submit questions in advance, and Ruth in procurement has asked a great one about our sustainability initiatives. These are uncertain times but we aren’t backtracking on any of our commitments. As I like to say, there is a “plan” in “planet” and we are sticking to ours. Derek, I think you have a slide on this to share with our colleagues?

Everyone is now asking about the ones I have skipped. Who decided to make the questions visible? Was it you, Vivian?

I can see a lot of questions coming in. It’s so great to see such engagement from our team. But I want to answer one submitted beforehand from Fergal in finance, about the company’s debt load. Remember, asking questions in advance is the best way for us to prepare the fullest possible responses. Jeff, this is very much your territory so why don’t you take this one?

I can’t just keep ignoring all these other questions. I’ll have to take some of them.

Thanks, Jeff. I see that some of you have asked a few questions about my payout last year. We pay competitively, which means paying as much as needed to get the best out of the best people. My interests are aligned with yours. If you do well, I do well. And if I do well, you may do well, too. Cynthia, can you talk a little about the compensation-benchmarking study we did last year?

Find a way to turn the q&a channel off. Or start putting questions in there yourselves. Use fake names if you have to.

There is a lot of interest in the court case, which I obviously cannot talk about publicly. Suffice to say that we completely reject the allegations.

I also see plenty of questions about job losses. It is possible that we will need to do some restructuring of the business. I do not have anything to share with you on this right now but I cannot guarantee that jobs are safe (apart from psychologically, of course). That goes for all of us: you, me and every single person organising this very town hall.

Oh God. Someone is asking about what we did on the last night of the corporate retreat. How the hell did they find out about that? Vivian, stop the call. Now. Jeff, is that your real smile?

Read more from Bartleby, our columnist on management and work:
How to get things done—eventually (Sep 15th)
Why the fuss over quiet quitting? (Sep 8th)
Is there a point to exit interviews? (Sep 1st)

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