When is bad news better than good news?
When you put off communicating important information to your organization until you have something “good” to say to them.
There’s an old saying that “no news is good news.” That may still apply to some things in life, but it’s decidedly untrue when it comes to communicating important information to your organization.
When people don’t have any or enough information about what’s important to them, what happens? One typical result is that they get anxious. And anxious team members are more distracted and less productive. In fact, in a recent business survey reported by McKinsey, “Employees who felt included in detailed communications about what’s decided and what’s still uncertain were nearly five times more likely to report increased productivity.”
Employees (and leaders) who don’t have enough information will also begin to develop their own ideas about what’s going on. They suppose something is true without having evidence to confirm it. And then you’re playing defense against a difficult foe with multiple tentacles: the rumor mill.
Decades of leadership research and best practice application support the “over-communication” of information to employees when an organization is facing change, particularly during the most trying of times. That means direct, open communication on the status of what’s important to employees on a regular basis through multiple channels from all levels of management.
Some leaders have a difficult time dealing with uncertainty themselves and assume others will too. For them it’s tempting to “wait until we get it all figured out before we let people know what direction we’re going in.” What these leaders often fail to realize is that it’s a lot easier as a more senior leader to deal with uncertainty when you have much more real-time information available to you; and this is especially true if you have some control over the decisions and direction the organization is heading in.
It’s better to be frank with your teams about what the challenges are, what decisions have been made and what is still pending. Explain the competing variables the organization faces and trust them understand the complexity. It allows people to process information along the way. That makes the eventual decisions that are made easier for people to accept and adjust to because they will have felt involved along the way.