No-one likes having the wool pulled over their eyes, especially when it comes to business decisions others are making that directly affects your career. When a business is going through a big change in internal processes and strategies or instigating a massive upheaval, like a company restructure, keeping employees in the dark can backfire spectacularly. The risk of speculation and rumour running rampant throughout your office increases tenfold and a lack of honest and clear direction can leave people feeling uneasy, insecure and frustrated with those leading them.
Trust and loyalty are borne from honest communication and fair treatment, they’re essential ingredients in the foundation of good working relationships and without it employer – employee relations can quickly become dysfunctional and give rise to a toxic work environment, which can threaten productivity and therefore the bottom line, result in staff dissatisfaction and high turnover, and ultimately lessen the chances of your business surviving.
Having experienced redundancy and some pretty big management and process changes in my own career, having your employer be honest in not only addressing the situation, but also clearly communicating both the challenges and the opportunities that that particular change can bring, is genuinely appreciated and makes it a lot easier to deal with.
Being included in the decision making process (where appropriate) also has a huge positive impact by increasing staff motivation and engagement. By actively listening to your employees and genuinely taking into consideration their suggestions for improvements, especially in regards to changes in processes or company culture and values, you can make better and more informed decisions. Your staff may contribute genius solutions to problems that you hadn’t thought of!
Sounds pretty good, so is absolute transparency all sunshine and daisies? Alas, it is not. On the flip side, there’s a definite risk with being too transparent about changes or problems your business is facing, a warts and all approach can be a dangerous path to tread. This is especially true if you have very limited information yourself, or if you’re really uncertain of what direction you will take and can offer no tangible solutions of any sort. With only tid-bits of information to share you can easily end up causing a lot of unnecessary confusion, uncertainty and even panic amongst your staff, so sometimes not being 100% transparent at the immediate outset is sensible. Timing is everything.
I’ve known someone who was told they were losing their job due to a restructure, but that a concrete finish date couldn’t be provided anytime soon, because the company wasn’t actually sure when they should pull the plug on their operations. Letting the business wind down in that manner naturally produced a lot of anxiety and anger, not to mention a drop in staff productivity and motivation. It also made it incredibly difficult for those who were losing their jobs to sort out their next career move; they were stuck in limbo as it were and boy did they resent it. If the company had conducted their communications around this process in good faith, in-line with legislation and with their employees and business firmly front and centre, it would’ve made the whole experience a lot more pleasant for everyone involved and wouldn’t have tarnished their reputation.
Ultimately, transparent communication from leadership is vital for businesses to not only survive, but to flourish. It’s a delicate balancing act for sure, but it’s a crucial one to get right.