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November 28, 2014

Keeping Your Team Informed in Uncertain Times

Ruth Hill

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©©GettyImages/mheim3011

Imagine that your company is about to be taken over by its largest competitor.

You’ve read the press release on the Internet, but executives have been eerily quiet about what it means for you and your team. The rumor mill is predicting job losses, but you have no idea how many or for whom.

Instead of focusing on their work, the people on your team are speculating about their futures, ducking outside to speak with recruitment consultants, and updating their résumés on the sly. Quality of work and productivity are suffering, and you’re starting to worry about keeping your own job, too.

At last, your CEO makes an announcement: "Good news!" But the damage is already done, and some of your best people have jumped ship...

It can be hard to know what to tell your team when times are uncertain. Keeping quiet is only grist to the rumor mill, but, if you speculate about what might happen, some people might take what you say as fact. This might seem like a bit of a “Catch 22” situation but, according to communications consultants Phillip Clampitt, Robert DeKoch and Thomas Cashman, adopting the right communication strategy can help to ease the situation.

Our article on How to Communicate Organizational Uncertainty examines how a company’s communication strategy can shape employees' attitudes. It looks at the impact of various different approaches (good and bad), and outlines the five critical requirements that Clampitt, DeKoch and Cashman identified during their extensive research into developing an appropriate strategy in uncertain times.

Of course, it’s not just company takeovers that create an atmosphere of uncertainty. These days, sources of uncertainty seem to be everywhere, from economic pressures, emerging technologies or fluctuating market trends to capricious customer demands or evolving policies and regulations.

At times like these, many people adopt a policy of “wait and see,” but this can lead to missed opportunities and lost business. It's far better to put your available skills and resources to good use. You can find out more about thriving in uncertain times in our articles on Managing Project Uncertainty, The Uncertainty Factor, and Decision Making Under Uncertainty.

In the words of Forbes blogger Tony Bradley, “Waiting for everything to be certain before making a business decision is like waiting for all of the stoplights to be green before leaving your house to go to work.”

So, bring your sunglasses and your umbrella. The forecast may be changeable, but there’s still work to be done!

Question: Have you ever benefited from uncertain conditions? Maybe you spotted a new trend before others did, or took advantage of a new technology? Share your experiences of thriving in an uncertain world here.

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One comment on “Keeping Your Team Informed in Uncertain Times”

  1. The rumour mill can be full of stories about what is about to come, and this in turn fuels stress and unease. Yet, when people can simply wait for the official announcement, they can deal with the reality of the situation.

    How have you switched off to the rumours and waiting until the official announcements?

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