Just What Does It Mean, “These Economic Times?”

Broadcast emails, you gotta love them. For about ten years I have been finding the phrase “these economic times” and its variants but I can’t tell you what it means. Keep reading if you also look for context.

Every time I read one of these emails I want to post about it but in the consulting business you have to be very careful not to write a post that seems to jab your customers.  I’m never going to get enough breathing space for this one, so the disclaimer is: This isn’t about you, I promise.

When a person in leadership uses the phrase, is he saying “these economic times are the reason something unexpected happened?” Or is it “I misread these economic times and things are hard now?” Or is he being a goof-up and blaming every issue with the company that is a mystery to him on the economy?

It sounds like “Stay the course” to me.

For whatever reason, the man at the top is granting himself a mulligan and you as a PM have to give it to him.

Here’s an idea. Closed door meeting with the boss, use your soft skills and develop a relationship. Start with the statement that you had read his email and you are looking for context. There’s nothing wrong with that and it isn’t threatening.

“I want to align with you and help manage the message. So, what happened? I mean, the economy has been like it is for a decade. Let’s talk about how to out plan the problem, what ever it is.”

He’s going to buy-in or get defensive. Either way, leave with a gentle caution about the message. After all, the economy is by the number better than it has been. The way that we as PMs grow trust is by communicating the truth often and early. That’s what we do to bind teams and organizations together and keep the boss out of court. I don’t think self made or MBA types get that the easy way.  It’s your chance to help.

And the foot soldiers—fact-driven these days—all watch the news or listen to news radio. They know when they smell BS.

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