Difficult Times Call for TACT-ful Communications

Difficult Times Call for TACT-ful Communications

2020 . . . what a year it has been! With a global pandemic in the foreground, as well as the political and social unrest throughout the nation, employees are facing assaults from multiple sources on their physical and psychological wellbeing.  So, when leaders need to communicate difficult news related to the business, they must do so thoughtfully to avoid compounding the emotional toll on employees. Adding new concerns to employees’ lengthy list of worries is sure to further compromise employee engagement and productivity and send morale plummeting to almost irreparable levels.

Remember Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs? Employment and health fears jeopardize our basic need to remain safe and secure. Employees look to leaders for information, reassurance and guidance. But if their messages fall short, employees become too consumed with addressing their fear and anxiety to ascend to a level that gives them the psychological freedom to be most successful in their roles.

In times as serious as these, how can executives effectively communicate difficult news, without destroying any hope of an engaged and thriving employee base? It’s not easy, but you can start by ensuring executive communications are TACT-ful. When under stress, individuals are drawn to and rally behind leaders who deliver messages that are Timely, Articulate, Compassionate and Truthful. Here’s why:

  • A timely message gets ahead of the bad news, so employees have the information they need before the rumor mill starts churning. Potential leaks of confidential information are always a possibility; therefore, providing clear information at the right time is critical to help curb any falsehoods from circulating prematurely.
  • An articulate message clearly explains what’s happening in simple and understandable language – no corporate jargon! It’s important to ensure employees are able to understand the “why” behind the decision, as this will help position the negative news in a logical context, allowing them to make sense out of and adequately absorb the rationale and its impact.
  • A compassionate message acknowledges the stress and anxiety that employees will undoubtedly experience after hearing about a difficult business decision. Recognizing their apprehension in a genuine and heartfelt manner demonstrates to employees that leaders understand the level of concern in the organization and are not being dismissive of their feelings.
  • A truthful message provides accurate and reliable information about the situation and what employees can expect. Although leaders may be constrained by what they are able to reveal due to confidential or uncertain information, being transparent about what they can or cannot say and ensuring they will share more information when available can build a strong foundation of trust in leadership.

Announcements related to business changes are never easy. And they carry an inherent risk of negatively impacting employee engagement and morale. Executives who make the effort to issue TACT-ful communications can help minimize employee disruption and maximize employee engagement during uncertain times.

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