In today’s unpredictable environment, comments managers make or actions they take, even simple decisions, can create uncertainty among their employees. Uncertainty creates fear, skepticism and anxiety. An employee who is operating with any of these emotions in play is unlikely to be offering up his or her best.
Here are 7 keys to help you slow the rumor mill and keep employees engaged:
1. Be Clear
Clarity is the antidote to anxiety. Ensure that people are clear on what their responsibilities continue to be. Reinforce key objectives and give your team members certainty on their deliverables.
2. Be There
Increase your visibility and availability. Set up a structure for communicating information and stick to it. Increase the frequency of your one-on-ones. Knowing that they will get the opportunity to connect at least once a week will help team members stay focused on their work the rest of the time.
Regular team meetings can be very effective to get information to a group. They also provide a great opportunity for questions and answers. Always follow up a verbal communinication with a written account. This ensures the message does not get distorted.
3. Be consistent
If you are consistent in communicating relevant news when you get it, you will increase the trust level for your team. Nature abhors a vacuum. If you stay silent because you’re afraid of creating unnecessary concern, you can be certain that your employees are making up stories about what your silence means. So fill the void before they fill it.
4. Be credible
Avoid platitudes like “Business as usual.” It isn’t business as usual, and you have to acknowledge that. Make sure any information you provide is accurate. If you don’t know the answer to a question, commit to finding it out and then get back to your team as quickly as possible.
5. Be honest
You may find yourself in a position where you can’t tell as much as you know. To maintain integrity, answer simply and honestly: “I’m not able to answer that right now.” Never lie. If you’re caught in a lie, no matter how small, you’ll undermine all of your well-intentioned reaching out.
6. Be curious
The old adage “no news is good news” does not apply in circumstances such as these. You have to seek information. Ask: “What are you concerned about?” “What are the stories that you’ve heard?” “What is the biggest fear that you have at this time?”
7. Be real
Make sure your tone and body language match your message. If you are not conveying genuine compassion, no matter what you say, your employees’ anxiety levels will continue to escalate. This is not about acting: people will see through insincerity. This is about getting yourself into a people perspective: stand in their shoes.
Following these steps will not alleviate all the unease that times like these inevitably create, but it will help your employees feel involved and respected. You will create confidence that when there is news that does affect them, they will hear it from someone who genuinely cares.