“John Doe resigned for personal reasons. He is no longer with the company. If you have any questions, please reach out to your HR representative.” I remember feeling uncertain and curious after receiving this cryptic communication, a few years into my career. One of our cherished senior leaders had left without any warning or good-byes. The rumor mill was working overtime. All of us were filling the information void with speculation, including the possibility that he was fired.
At that time, I couldn’t fathom the overwhelming and negative response to an almost endemic workplace event. But now I know that the problem was not this change, but the way the change was communicated.
The problem is that the human brain sees unfamiliarity and uncertainty as a threat. Having experienced many workplace changes over the years, I’ve seen how potent good communication is in preventing that negative reaction.
Here’s how to elevate your communications during a change:
Provide Specifics: the reasons and outcomes.
✗ This is the new structure. We will need to downsize, but this will help us deliver fantastic results.
✔ We need to strengthen our core business to survive. The new company structure will make us more agile so we can serve customers better and thrive in this competitive market. We’re currently the third strongest company in our sector but we believe that, together, we can be number one.
Define Shared Success: the measurements and outcomes from the employee’s point of view.
✗ It will improve our core business which will result in higher profitability.
✔ It will improve our core business pipeline. We plan to achieve two-digit growth in three years, resulting in more opportunities and higher wages for our employees.
Keep it Simple: short, succinct and in simple words.
✗ We need to leverage each other’s strengths to make this organization a better place — not only for us, but for employees of the future.
✔ We need your support to rebuild our company.
Talk about the Support: tools, aids, two-way communication and training.
✗ I hope we answered all your questions and look forward to your support.
✔ We encourage you to send questions to the helpline. Your local leaders will be conducting town-halls and one-on-one meetings, starting next month, to keep you updated and hear your reactions and ideas.
(This one’s my favorite.)
Be Soulful: passion, empathy, respect for the individual, and aligned values.
✔ It’s a difficult day for our organization. For those who are included in the layoffs, you will receive severance and support as you move on to another job. For those who remain part of the company, you are our future and crucial to rebuilding the company.
As Rasheed Ogunlaru, a leading business coach, once said, “The only way to change someone’s mind is to connect with them from the heart.” Don’t be afraid to engage your employees. Transparency builds trust, and trust is key to the success of any change.