Group email sprays are from Mars, real toughness is from Venus*

The Australian recruitment industry gained some unexpected worldwide publicity late last month with the social media frenzy over an email sent by Mars Recruitment owner and MD, Marcus Wood, to his Sydney employees two Friday’s ago.

The email, subject line reading Friday observation, was:

Morning guys,

Quick observation that is really getting on my tits.

1: Endless ping pong during CORE BD business hours – especially from people with no money on the board.

2: Not even bothering to put a suit on or pretending to look the part (again with no money on the board).

3: Some of you are taking more sick days than Tom Hanks during the dying days of Philadelphia…again with no money on the board (and being a cost to the company and me personally).

5 or 6 of you are REALLY GETTING ON MY TITS in this office – you are a cost, you are demanding and exhausting and you don’t even look like you are trying.

XXX will talk to you in more detail on Monday but if 5-6 of you don’t pick up your game massively you will see your sorry asses fired and slung out the door in under 3 months”.

Any further questions give me a shout and YOU BETTER ALL UP YOUR GAME when XXX in in Thailand or you will FEEL MY WRATH and that is not pretty.

So step it up some of you and do it quickly.

The Guardian’s Australian edition (28 July 2018) led with the following headline and sub-heading:

Worst email ever? Sydney boss apologises for angry all-staff message that went viral

Marcus Wood says workers ‘getting on my tits’, and unless performance improves he will fire their ‘sorry arses’

The story was also picked up in the UK with coverage in The Sun, The Mirror and The Telegraph . Even The Times (Save me from office euphemisms. I’d rather a boss said it straight), via (approving) columnist Hannah Betts, covered the yarn.

The Guardian reported the response of Wood when he was contacted by the media after his email was quickly leaked and shared widely across social media, as follows:

In his follow-up to staff, Wood wrote: “I am happy to hold my hands up, and to this end I wanted to apologise. Obviously some of you know me pretty well and know I shoot from the hip, but obviously others don’t.

“It seems I am becoming an online sensation for how NOT to communicate – and in hindsight I agree!! I do value you all, but I am sure you get my sentiments in wanting you to reach your full potential, even if my delivery in this case was not at my loquacious best.”

I don’t know Marcus Wood and although I had heard of Mars Recruitment I knew nothing about them.

After the tsunami of publicity I jumped online to check them out.

Here’s what I found under their Values

Well a case could be made that Wood was acting consistently with the second and third of these values and it sounds like some of the Mars employees were living the fourth value in a way that Wood wasn’t so keen on.

The impact this whole episode has on the Mars Recruitment brand will been seen in the medium term. Using “Mars Recruitment Sydney” as my search words the story didn’t appear until towards the bottom of the third page of a Google Search. Using “Mars Recruitment Marcus Wood” saw the link to The Sun’s coverage appear about half way down the first page. Like many of these social media-generated stories I suspect it’s not going to have much impact.

Although many owners and leaders may feel the urge to send a similar email from time to time it’s never a good idea as it will almost certainly not accomplish what the sender wants it to accomplish.

Here’s why:

  1. The person(s) who are the ‘guilty’ team members will assume it’s for somebody else
  2. The boss loses respect as all the email’s recipients note the boss’s lack of courage in failing to name, and confront, the ‘guilty’ team members directly.
  3. A group email will annoy those recipients who aren’t deserving of the spray.

What else might Wood, and other similarly frustrated owners, do differently when observing unproductive behavior from consultants?

The most reliable way to influence behavior change in another person is for that person themselves to acknowledge, verbally, where they are falling short of the expected standards and what action they are going to take to make amends. Emails that do not ask for any specific response from a specified person(s) will not change behavior for any sustained period of time, if at all.

Aggressive emails such as the one Wood sent have the superficial appearance of acting tough but what does a genuinely tough, but fair, boss do?

Having reported to Greg Savage for five years I can tell you first hand – a tough, but fair, boss confronts you face-to-face.

A tough, but fair, boss provides the evidence of where you have failed to meet the performance standards you agreed to; has you acknowledge this failure and has you commit to the specific action necessary to bring your performance back to the required level. And a tough, but fair, boss does this without humiliating, intimidating, belittling or bullying you. A tough but fair boss does this through asking direct questions.

A tough, but fair, boss knows that having a person act from pride in their own performance rather than from fear is what leads to immediate action and builds sustained performance improvement over time.

A tough, but fair, (and smart) boss never sends a spray by group email because they know it doesn’t work and it also undermines the employees’ respect for him or her.

*Try as I might I couldn’t come up with anything to legitimately tie Venus into the story but I liked the headline, so I kept it. 

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