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Phil Hughes And 6 Lessons in Sensitivity For Internal Communicators

As I reflected on the tearful farewell given by the sporting fraternity to Phil Hughes, the Australian cricketer who dies in a tragic accident I personally felt Cricket Australia and other sportspersons demonstrated great poise and empathy during this episode. There are often such unfortunate accidents that befall employees in organizations and I wanted to highlight the important lessons that internal communicators can bring to practice while communicating sensitive subjects like this.

  • Acknowledging the death as a serious incident Cricket Australia quickly recommended reviewing the safety guidelines for cricketers, a step widely appreciated. To me, this step did make a lot of sense rather that remove the ‘bouncer’ as a bowling option, as suggested by a few people.
  • By retiring Phil’s team jersey number of 64 and mentioning that he was ‘63 not out forever’ reinforced their support for a colleague who passionately lived for the game. It also sent a message that the game mattered most and every sportsperson makes the game complete.
  • There were many other gestures that indicated how sensitive the nation and other sportspersons were – wearing black arm bands, flags flown at half-mast, matches rescheduled for the team to cope with the loss and revising plans to respect Phil. In a corporate environment, it is difficult to communicate such information in a time bound yet sensitive manner. Although there are symbolisms such as observing a minute’s silence and sharing the individual’s journey and merits can be well received. It will also be helpful to share how colleagues can participate in the last rites if they want to.
  • Phil played 26 Tests for his country, not a large number if you go by the number of matches played by others. Despite that the cricket body and the nation deemed it important to celebrate his life and successes in a memorable ceremony that was telecast live. It isn’t about the tenure in the organization or the role played by the individual that matters. How we recognize and appreciate the person’s contribution is so crucial in such situations. You can consider dedicating a value award in the individual’s name or form a foundation that the individual was passionate about.
  • What also struck me as very impressive was how the media gave Sean Abbott the space even when he attended the ceremony in memory of Phil. That sensitivity is important while colleagues grieve their loved ones, be in office or outside. The support for Sean has been phenomenal as he copes with his cricketing future and life ahead.
  • Last but not least I noticed how an innocuous sounding hashtag #putoutyourbats united the world in recognizing Phil’s contribution. The presence of a line of cricket bats with messages scrolled on them reminded how we can bring our hearts and minds together for a cause and individuals in a simple expression of love.

What did you observe? Please share your views here.



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