Nick Miller

Change Management: Four Tips to Communicate Bad News Best

Yellow road sign saying changes ahead with blue cloudy skyHeraclitus said “Change is the only constant in life,” and that applies as much to a company as any individual. Stagnation will smother a company’s success and so change should be celebrated as a part of the corporate life cycle. But sometimes change can be bad news to members of your workforce.

That doesn’t mean they don’t want to be informed. It’s the obligation of a business to keep their employees up-to-date on news that can affect their daily lives. In those instances, leadership is given the opportunity to communicate change respectively.

Here are five best practices for communicating with employees during tough times in a manner that helps employees get the right message for how to move forward:

  1. Focus on what you can impact. In other words, don’t waste precious time on things you can’t control. As much as you’d like to, you can’t dictate someone’s response to a message, nor do you have the luxury of changing the message to suit each individual. The most sensible and kind way to handle difficult communications is to deliver messages and news in an appropriate and timely manner.
  2. It’s about tone. It’s tough to deliver bad news one day and then follow with neutral or even positive news the next, but that is essential for a healthy communications team. It’s as detrimental to dwell on the hard decisions made yesterday as it is to rest on your laurels. Think of a newscaster whose job it is to report on a tragedy and then talk about a random act of kindness. Changing your tone accordingly is part of the job.
  3. Have a post-announcement plan. If you’re communications plan stops after the message is delivered, you can lose control of how that message evolves. Plan one or multiple follow up messages in order to combat the rumor mill. Initiate checkpoints to gauge how it’s going and invite feedback. Employees will feel more engaged if you involve them in the process.
  4. Don’t be surprised if employees think change is bad. If you’re not properly prepared for a negative response, it can come across as though your employees’ feelings were not factored in. Acknowledge that the news is unfortunate, but it is a part of the business process.

Need help communicating change to your employees? Tribe can help.

 

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

84% of Employees Say Change Management Communications Handled Poorly

In Tribe’s employee research, 84 percent feel that communications about major changes in their companies are handled poorly. If you’re interested in your employees falling into that 84 percent, here are three sure-fire ways to completely blow it with employees:

1. Don’t say anything at all until every single detail is final. This is an awesome idea if you want employees to feel insecure and uneasy. Especially if they somehow suspect change is afoot and begin to spread that suspicion via the grapevine.

2. Tell them what they want to hear. For instance, if there’s currently no plan for layoffs, go ahead and promise them that all their jobs are definitely safe and they don’t have a thing to worry about. If that changes, they probably won’t even remember the earlier communication.

3. If it’s bad news, don’t talk about it. If you don’t acknowledge that something has gone wrong, or that a difficult change is coming, then you can keep employees from knowing a thing about it.

What’s that? You prefer treating employees with respect? Then you might find the following tips more in keeping with your approach:

• Don’t patronize them by withholding negative news. They’d rather know what to expect than be left in the dark.

• Tell employees as much as you can as soon as you can. If aspects of the change are not yet decided, tell them that too.

• Don’t make the mistake of thinking employees get all their information about the company from the company. They have plenty of other sources, from the financial news to the local news and from social media to social connections.

Want some guidance in handling change communications? Tribe can help.

5 Best Practices for Communicating Bad News

26668403You can’t shield your employees from the stress of the recession. For one thing, it’s everywhere. It’s on the news. It’s the topic of conversation among friends and family. It’s visible as you drive down the street and see closed signs and empty storefronts. It’s the background noise to which we have all worked and lived in 2009.

Even though you can’t control the messages your employees receive outside your company, you are in control of what they hear from leadership about your company. It’s important to differentiate your company’s strategy, plans, goals, hopes and dreams from the general perception of the public and media.

A lot of companies are planning to not make any big moves till 2010. But when you don’t explain to employees why that is, they’ll start to think you’ve either tuned out or thrown in the towel. Entering a “no talk zone” will have a huge impact on employee morale and, consequently, the bottom line. And, who can afford that right now?

Even though much of the news you have to share right now might not be good, the way in which you channel and share news will greatly impact employee morale (more than the actual news itself in many cases).

You don’t want employees to be so distracted by the “what if” that they are underperforming. The recession will end (the debate only centers around when), and it will end for companies sooner if their employees are focused on future success and growth rather than the “recession depression” that is overtaking some companies’ employees.

Employees take their cue from you as to how hard they should try to make a difference. And now is the time for all hands on deck. The best business move you can make right now is to fully leverage your assets – and your people are your biggest asset.

Here are five best practices for communicating with employees during tough times in a way that helps employees get the right message for how to move forward:

1. Focus on what you can impact. In other words, don’t waste precious time on things you can’t control. As much as you’d like to, you can’t control someone’s response to a message. And, you don’t have the luxury of changing the message to suit each individual (although you might wish otherwise). Your job as a leader and communicator is to deliver messages and news in an appropriate and timely manner. That’s the most sensible and kind way to handle difficult communications.

2. It’s about tone. It’s tough to deliver bad news one day and then move on to more mundane or even positive news the next. But, you must. You can’t dwell on the hard decisions made yesterday just as you can’t rest on your laurels. Think of a newscaster whose job it is to report on a tragedy and then talk about a random act of kindness. Change your tone accordingly.

3. Have a post-announcement plan. Even if you’re plan stops after the message is delivered, the message keeps going and going and going. Plan for follow-up. Have checkpoints to gauge how it’s going. Invite feedback and be open to changes. Employees will feel more engaged if you involve them in the process.

4. Don’t be surprised if employees think change is bad. If you don’t know what to tell them, it comes across as if you haven’t thought everything through and they’ll doubt that you’re doing the best thing for the business. Sometimes, even when the news isn’t bad, it’s still a major change, and people tend to be scared of change. But they tend to be less scared if they know what to do.

5. Carve out roles for employees. Companies sometime worry that if employees know too much they’ll worry about things they can’t control. Or suddenly feel like they have to comment on everything. This can be avoided by making sure you clearly define and communicate what everyone’s role will be in the turnaround.