We are not perfect

Home We are not perfect

Do you know of a perfect company? Where all employees collaborate perfectly? Where nothing ever goes wrong? Where the customer satisfaction is astronomically high? Can you quote one such a company? Or five?

Everybody probably agrees with me that there is not one or barely such a company. A company is about people, and people are far from being perfect. Each and every one of us has strengths and weaknesses. These (in)competences obviously have an impact on a company’s results.

Nobody is perfect

Nobody is perfect, yet as marketers we were trained in the past to create an illusion of “perfection”. Errors have to be kept under wraps. All successes must be proclaimed from the rooftops. Promises should even be exaggerated slightly in order to further reinforce the image of perfection.

Last week I had a captivating conversation on the subject with several company leaders. We mainly talked about the role of employees in the determination of the perception. We all agreed: the perception consumers have of a given company is determined increasingly by employees, and decreasingly by classic advertising.

A minor explosion had occurred in the laboratory of one of these companies recently. One of the employees immediately took a picture of the incident and shared it with his Facebook friends. The company management was not too happy about that. They concluded that the perfect image had been slightly blurred.

Everybody agreed with the man. It was indeed an annoying situation, so concluded the group. At a given moment I made a comment: “I can imagine that this is something a company would prefer not to happen, but is this really so bad?’. Will the company have suffered any damages because of this Facebook status update? I doubt it.

Employees have always talked, and will always talk

Many companies worry about the communication of their employees on social media. But these communications have always happened, ever since people started working for companies. However since the rise of social media company managers are confronted with communications or reflections made by their staff. Ten years ago these same reflections also existed, of course. This confrontation leads to the realisation that the perception of their company is probably not perfect. And that is exactly what comes across as painful to some of them.

I think this stream of thoughts is a paradox. Everybody knows that companies and people are not perfect. This has been acknowledged by all. Yet we still want to maintain the illusion of a perfect image in our communication. We are even willing to gag our employees in order to keep the illusion of perfection.

Accept our humanity

I wonder whether we should not change our approach. Life will probably be easier if we learn to deal with the thought that we are not perfect. Let’s accept that employees will sometimes say something wrong. Some will even share something stupid with their online friends. As long as these are minor types of imperfection, it will actually make a company more human. And that is exactly what most consumers are looking for in these times of transparency: human and honest companies.