Dealing with Delicate Issues
Not sure how to proceed or what to do? Ask for help. If you don’t have a person who handles communications for your department or area, consult University Communications for planning assistance. If you do have someone who serves as the unit’s communications lead, have that person consult University Communications. Our staff can provide counsel and assistance with your communication challenges.
Tips on delivering messages about change
- Set expectations. Explain what’s going to happen and lay out a timeline of actions and expected milestones. Address critical issues up front: How will changes affect them? The more uncertainty you can remove, the better.
- Create a delivery rhythm. Provide updates in consistent intervals to keep people informed. Make sure the updates’ frequency matches the amount of information available. In other words, don’t schedule weekly updates when it’s likely that there will only be new information each month. People will be more comfortable knowing they can expect new information versus not knowing when the next update will come.
- Don’t be afraid to say when you don’t have all the information. Employees would rather hear that you don’t know something than think you’re withholding it.
- Enable feedback and monitor it. Give employees the opportunity to air concerns and submit questions; address them as promptly and thoroughly as possible. Chances are if one person is asking about a topic, others are thinking about it. Whether it’s weekly roundtable meetings, an anonymous web form, an email address or even a suggestion box, provide a way for people to express what’s on their minds. Check the feedback loop and see where the gaps are in what employees are really hearing.
- Dispel rumors before they get out of hand. Sometimes, you may be limited in what you can say about a situation. However, as much as possible, put a stop to wild rumors before they get a chance to spread. If you can dispel something that’s patently false (and even better, replace it with the truth), do so quickly.
- Reinforce the positives. Find the bright spots about the change and incorporate them into messages. Changes can cause anxiety and uncertainty among employees, but can also lead to a stronger organization.