When Michael Strahan’s departure from ABC’s Live! was announced last week, everyone was shocked – most of all his co-host, Kelly Ripa. If you’re in the dark here, Strahan and Ripa have co-hosted Live! since 2012, but early last week the network abruptly announced that Strahan would leave his post and join Good Morning America instead. The big wrinkle is that Ripa – who has hosted the show for more than 15 years — found out Strahan was leaving merely minutes before it was announced publicly. The fallout? Ripa was absent from Live! for the rest of the week while rumors flew that she was ready to leave the show herself.
Strahan’s exit and Ripa’s subsequent absence dominated entertainment news over the past week. And just yesterday morning, Ripa returned to the show and announced that ABC apologized for its handling of the situation. The entire debacle reminds us that a lack of transparency can be disastrous. For Live!, it was a very public failing but here are some ways that companies can avoid the same mistake:
Workplace Transparency is a Long-Term Solution
While managers or organizations might assume they’re protecting themselves or their employees by keeping significant news a secret, the opposite is true. ABC’s unwillingness to share the decision with Ripa beforehand resulted in her weeklong absence from the show, creating more rumors and bad press. The short-term discomfort and animus associated with an impactful business decision is preferable to the long-term fallout from fostering a culture of secrecy. Drastic organizational change will likely always result in dips in morale – but it can be temporary.
You Don’t Have to Give Away the Secret Sauce
It’s unreasonable for employees to expect companies to divulge every business move beforehand. However, when decisions that directly affect an employee’s everyday work are made without communication beforehand, morale suffers. Strahan and Ripa worked together everyday and his departure was likely planned well in advance of when she found out minutes before. Plan conversations and inform employees who will be affected – then ask for feedback immediately through a brief pulse survey. While employee feedback won’t change the decision, you’ll know how decisions impact morale and you can take steps toward improvement.
Communication with Your Top Talent is Imperative
Kelly Ripa is no doubt considered top talent – so why keep her in the dark? A fast way to push your top employees out the door is to make them feel like they’re not important and their opinions don’t matter. Live!’s viewers saw firsthand the trouble brewing behind the scenes and likewise, your customers will see the fallout if your top talent is unhappy. Create a regular feedback loop with your employees already and surprises are less likely to happen. Keep your workforce happy and engaged by communicating with them regularly.
It’s yet to be seen how Live! will recover from its public mishandling of Strahan’s departure. Will it result in a show-wide drop in morale and engagement? Will its viewers stop watching? Will Ripa eventually leave as well? What are your thoughts on how the show could have handled the situation differently? Do you have strategies for realistically creating a culture of transparency? Share your thoughts in the comments.