It’s important for leaders to communicate clearly, but it’s absolutely critical that it happens in uncertain times.
And the uncertainty of the past two years doesn’t seem to be letting up any time soon.
So managers and supervisors will want to sharpen their communication skills – especially those used in complex, overwhelming or unchartered situations – to help employees navigate it all.
Researchers recently looked closely at organizations and leaders who communicated better with employees throughout the pandemic.
These leaders continued to gain employee trust even when they didn’t have all the answers or the information and protocols changed rapidly. And that’s exactly when they could’ve just as easily been perceived as evasive or crass.
But don’t wait until something goes wrong to use them. Make them everyday rules for communicating clearly in the workplace.
Employees often look to leaders to have all the answers. And that’s when it’s tempting to bluff with the little information you have.
Instead, be upfront when you don’t have all the answers. When you admit you don’t know exactly what’s next or how things will pan out, you show honesty and authenticity.
And you don’t set up expectations that you can’t deliver on when all the information is in.
This could be the most important tip to communicate better: Keep your messages consistent in tone and cadence.
Employees may not know what to expect next. But if they know you’ll tell them calmly at regular intervals what you know and what they need to do, they’ll trust you and the process.
Collaborate with other leaders
You’ll want to maintain a consistent and transparent message within your group.
You’ll also want to work with the leaders in other areas your team works with to deliver, at least, similar – if not, exact – messages.
And if it’s critical information disseminating from the top of your organization, work together so the same (or similar) message goes out to employees at the same time.
Employees will more likely have faith in what’s said when they all get the same story. If not, they’ll fill holes with gossip or accusations.
Address difficult decisions head-on
Leaders need to make difficult decisions when figuring out how to get through uncertain times and complex situations. Don’t sugarcoat that.
Be upfront about the crisis, the choices you faced and how you sometimes had to pick the “least bad” option to get through it.
If you’re honest about difficulties, they’ll be more likely to rise up to help the team overcome what’s happened.
Direct and seek support
Explain how employees can help each other. Many people overcome difficult situations by helping others through them. They thrive on that “We’re all in this together” mantra.
You can’t force people to shoulder others’ burdens. But give them direction on how they can support solutions and each other – if they choose to.
To communicate better, researchers suggest you put a message at the end of emails. Remind employees where they can get help online or from a leader if they face mental health issues such as anxiety.