3 ways to botch a major company announcement

If you want to ruin morale when shakeups loom, wait until the last second, use vague language and avoid communicating bad news.

If change is on the horizon, you’d better talk about it.

In my company’s research, 84 percent of employees polled felt that communications about major changes in their companies are handled poorly. If you want to ensure your colleagues join that anxious 84 percent, here are three surefire ways to mishandle a significant announcement:

1. Keep everything under wraps until every detail is final. This is a fine idea—if your goal is to make employees insecure and uneasy. If workers already suspect change is afoot, you can bet rumors will spread. Giving workers the silent treatment only fuels anxiety and speculation.

2. Tell them what they want to hear. Even if there are currently no plans for layoffs, should you promise the staff that all their jobs are safe? If plans change, you’ll have ruined your credibility. Don’t make empty promises you know you can’t guarantee. Short-term salves are not worth long-term fury, backlash and fallout.

3. If it’s bad news, keep it to yourself. If you don’t acknowledge that something has gone wrong, or that a difficult change is coming, do you think your employees won’t notice? Do you think they’ll just absorb whatever happens and happily carry on? Some might, but they won’t respect or trust company leaders in the future. Your best workers will probably also race to find another job.

What’s that? You prefer treating employees with respect?

Then you might find the following tips more appropriate:

  • Avoid patronizing employees 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 in flux, tell them that, too.
  • Understand that employees get a chunk of their information about the company from outside sources. Your workers have plenty of other sources, whether it’s from mainstream news outlets, social media or personal connections. Forthright honesty is still the best policy.

A version of this post first appeared on Tribe’s Good Company blog.

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