The main reason Jobster has suddenly resurfaced on everyone's radar is because the company, the biggest new Internet company in Seattle, recently instituted a hiring freeze, which venture blog writer John Cook says is a sign that the company may have grown too big too fast. Shortly after, rumors began to surface that the 145-person company would announce significant layoffs.
Although a minor communication crisis was already brewing, Goldberg made it big with a post that asked people to "put down your pencils .... calm it down, relax a bit, and have a nice holiday. We've got no news to give ya before the new year."
From an internal communication perspective, posting this was paramount to the captain of the Titanic asking passengers to refrain from dropping lifeboats in the water until the ship's quartet finished his favorite song. To make matters worse, Goldberg added a post to justify Jobster's future decision to focus on profits in 2007. And again, he asked people to wait for answers.
"why would a young company like jobster care about profits? hmmm... vs. many of the dot com companies not too long ago who didn't? many answers to provide here ... will have to wait for now. but in the meantime i will point to a few big things ..." and goes on to list four of them.
No, there is nothing wrong with streamlining a company to become more profitable, but it is usually a good idea to let your employees know before the rest of the world. Not to mention, asking them to "have nice holidays" before facing major layoffs is almost too painful to post about.
Will there really be layoffs? According to an e-mail, again published by Cook, Goldberg writes: "What I can say is that the changes we will make are 100 percent voluntary and (management) proposed (versus) board dictated."
All this news and continuing updates from Cook has created a second wave of criticism about Goldberg and Jobster. It's unfortunate because this could have been handled better. One of the first golden rules of any crisis communication situation is to deal with the most urgent and critical matters as early as possible. In doing so, the spokesperson or CEO must be direct, decisive, and empathetic to anyone who could be negatively affected by the bad news.
Instead, Goldberg, apparently panicked and without the aid of a seasoned communication professional, wrote from his Blackberry: "I made a personal pledge to be a very public and open CEO, knowing that it could come back to bite me sometimes. I promised to speak my mind and provoke and prod the industry a bit, again knowing that it could open me up to greater criticism and sometimes backfire."
He went on to encourage his readers to read all about the "beating" he received from comments made by anonymous posters on Cook's blog. "Rather than run from it, I encourage folks to go read it."
Um, Mr. Goldberg, please, please stop throwing kerosene on the deck of your sinking ship and you just might save it yet. You see, there is a difference between being a very public and open CEO and one who is empathetic to his employees, investors, and fans.
Lesson for today: Don't tease with bad news, lead with it. It's not fun, but at least it's manageable.