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Perfect Communication

It seems like lately I keep coming back to one of my favourite topics to blog about – communication. Communication(s) is probably one of the biggest challenges facing organizations on a regular basis and depending on who you talk to, it is either the easiest thing (in theory) to fix or the hardest. I find that organizations tend to make communicating with their employees harder than it needs to be. Time and time again, companies seem to hold off on communicating to their employees while waiting for “perfect” communications to be available. What is perfect communication you ask? My personal definition:

dialogue boxesPerfect Communication – when organizations wait for all information to be present, known and available to them AND it is vetted through all required layers of management before being shared with employees. Essentially, it is communication that has all the ‘answers’ and ‘what-ifs’ known to the organization with a sanitized version being delivered to your staff.

My experience with this type of communication approach is that it tends to do one of several things to a company:

1) It greatly impairs/reduces decision making capability at all levels

2) It creates trust issues between employees and management and fosters a culture of secrecy

3) It causes employee disengagement/frustration with their supervisors and the leadership team

4) It fuels the rumour mill

5) It ultimately ends up impacting (in the constipated sense) all future communications that management has with its staff.

So why do organizations and leadership teams do this? Do they not think that their employees can handle only knowing part of the picture? Why do we wait for all information to be available before we tell our employees anything? With my latest theme of “your employees are SMART,” this is yet another example of treating smart people as if they were stupid. I firmly believe that leadership teams really need to focus on when is the right time to communicate something to its employees, even if that communication is “we don’t have any updates re. said matter right now but we wanted to let you know.” I am also a big believer in letting your staff know that you don’t know/have all the information but when you get it, you will share it with them. That way, you have communicated several times with your staff and are keeping them in the loop. Whatever you do, don’t wait for “perfect” communication to be available because it never will be. Don’t let the rumour mill take hold or let outside sources communicate with your staff before you do.

By delaying communication, staff will simply hypothesize ( rumour monger) about what really is going on and by the time you actually communicate with them it is too late. The rumour/speculation has become the truth and you face an uphill communication battle. When it comes to communicating with your staff, whether you have a small or large employee population, I subscribe to a simple model:

1) Tell them what you know – focus on the facts, the “known,” etc.

2) Tell them what you don’t know – it is ok to tell your employees when you don’t know something; they will appreciate your honesty and for being forthright.

3) Tell them that you will tell them when you know more.

4) When you know more – TELL THEM.

This way, you have a continuous communication loop and are actually finding more reasons to WANT to communicate with your staff. Communication builds trust, trust leads to retention.

I would love to know your thoughts? Can it be this simple? Do you find waiting for perfect communication makes things worse? As always, I welcome your thoughts and feedback.

Smoke Image courtesy of digitalart/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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3 Responses

  1. Simple truths to better communications, Best way to squelch rumors is to meet them head on, agreed. Tell what you know and what you don’t know and promise to get back to them. Timely communication is the key. Nice read.
    Nick

  2. Reblogged this on The Armchair HR Manager and commented:

    Another from the not so dusty archives – talking communication #hrblogs

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