“Did you hear that they’re restructuring the department?”
“Someone told me that they’re thinking of selling the company.”
“The word in my department is that there is talk of a merger.
What do you think that means for our jobs?”
Uncertainty. Rumors. Gossip. None are good for employee morale and confidence. At best they serve to keep employees on edge and at worst, they prompt them to seek employment elsewhere.
Business owners walk a fine line. On one hand, you don’t want to keep employees in the dark; on the other, there are some business matters that cannot be fully revealed, at least at the outset.
The fact is there are few things more nerve-wracking for employees than “not knowing what’s going on” and with their livelihood in the balance, it is easy to see how the office rumors can start to fly.
As a small business owner, your staff has helped grow the company to this point; don’t forget that fact. When I sold my first business, a PC training company in 1997, I made certain that my staff had a (1) one year contract with training to provide for their future. Prior to signing the deal, I then brought them into this philosophy and they all stayed with the new company. This was a win-win for all.
Here are several things you can do to improve the situation:
Oftentimes business owners will wait until they have all of the details finalized before providing information to their employees. While it is understandable that some situations are so much in flux that it can be premature to give any news at all can, you can present the situation in broad strokes so that innuendo doesn’t run rampant throughout the office. Make certain to assure employees that you will provide them with more details as the situation evolves and most importantly, empathize with their concerns and desire for information.
Your words count so be certain to use verbiage that is as unambiguous as possible and not open to easy conjecture. Remember that it’s better to be firm and definitive about what you don’t know; in fact, it’s a far better strategy than causing more confusion and stress by offering up information in a vague and unclear manner.
There are certain corporate decisions that can have a far-reaching impact on employees. Relocation and mergers and acquisitions can radically change an employee’s future with the company and while you may not be able to provide them with a definitive timeline, you should be able to provide tentative information so employees are prepared. Make certain that everyone is aware that the timeline is provisional and should not be considered final.
Bottom-line, business owners need to exercise discretion and be skilled at the difficult task of providing just the right amount of information without either overkill or the opposite, making employees feel uninformed. Remember too that information can change. Make certain to schedule regular updates and keep the information that is being provided current.