April 7, 2014

Although some of the media frenzy surrounding the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 has quelled, the plane still has yet to be found and there are far more questions than answers.

The families of the missing are expressing heightened frustrations – not just with the lack of answers, but equally with the abundance of misinformation, guesswork and unfounded assumptions. Chanting “we want truth,” they are obviously distraught over what is perceived as lies or a cover up or simply, inaccuracies, and worst of all, lack of concern. In reality, no authority right now can definitively say what has happened to Flight MH370, and the point is this: no one should try until they know for sure.

I do believe that when you don’t have all the information, it is best to deliver straight talk about the reality of what you don’t know. It is bad to say nothing at all, and worst of all to offer unproven information, particularly in a case such as this where there is so much at stake.

As a nation, we are witnessing a culture very different from our own try to navigate this situation. Malaysia has never experienced a crisis like this before, and unfortunately, their intentions are falling quite short of expectations, not just for the families, but for a global community who is also watching and waiting.  (Note: Our nation’s response to addressing any transportation accident is handled under a very different set of guidelines.  See previous blog post Candor After the Crash.)

I am sad for the families of the missing who still don’t have answers. I am disappointed in the Malaysian authorities for mishandling their communications so poorly – it has, in fact, made it worse for the families to hear news and then receive a different story. It forces them to grieve and then re-grieve, and prevents them from accepting any reality at this point. It has caused them to lose all trust in the authorities, no longer believing anything they now hear is true or accurate or even reasonable

The lesson here is this: if you don’t know anything for sure, admit that you don’t know anything for sure. If you know anything at all – check and recheck your facts to be sure, and then promptly share what you know. Source additional experts and resources – early and continuously – until you do know. The Malaysian government is learning a tough lesson in the worst of circumstances – and while I do see a shift in their ability to admit they don’t know much and an attempt to be more direct with the families, it is definitely too little, too late.