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Beware of breach of trust!

Three fundamental mistakes in internal communication

Imagine spending your lunch break with friendly colleague. He asks you for your opinion about your future boss. Future boss? That’s the first time you hear about it. Your colleague is embarrassed. He thought you already knew. And what about you? You’re angry, you don’t feel appreciated and you doubt your standing in the company. If the same thing happens again, you will ask yourself if you‘re in the right company. Your trust has been shaken.

Scenes like this happen every day. They are a rarely a matter of bad intentions, but rather of careless planning and the failure to control the information processes. In the example above, office grapevine overtook official communication. This might have been because the boss was away from the office, there was no timetable for the flow of information, or someone did not respect confidentiality.

How do you manage to inform the right people at the right time and in the right order? We recommend making a detailed communication plan, above all, avoid the following three mistakes:

Mistake no. 1: Failing to inform affected people first

People who are directly affected by personnel or organisational changes, are a particularly sensitive target group. After all, it’s about their everyday working life, their relationships with managers and colleagues and sometimes even about their job. They have a right to be the first to be informed, and as personally as possible.

However, employees have never been more connected than they are today: there is a lively exchange of information via informal WhatsApp groups and social media channels, as well as through discussions in coffee kitchens and canteens. Information can even leak from a room during a meeting via text message. Once interesting and explosive topics reach the networks, they can no longer be stopped.

For communicators it is a race against time. Will the official information manage to reach people faster than the grapevine? If you want to have a realistic chance, you should agree on a policy of strict confidentiality and a well-timed communication process, well in advance.

Mistake no. 2: informing externally before internally

Externally before internally? Many professionals might hardly believe that such a mistake actually could happen. Yet it happens often enough. For example, the project team removes an aspect from internal communication at the very last moment in order to inform separately about it later. Unfortunately, no one thinks of removing this information from the press release. Or organisational changes appear in the annual report that no one knows about internally. We can all imagine how employees might feel when they learn about important news not from their management but from the newspaper. They are hurt and their trust is diminished to virtually zero.

How can you avoid this? By assigning one person in your company, who keeps track of all communication activities regarding a topic and makes sure that the messages are consistent.

Mistake no. 3: involving managers too late

If employees cannot understand a message or need more information, they (hopefully) contact their managers. But what if the manger doesn’t know more about the topic either, hasn’t understood it properly or is bad-mouthing the change? This will inevitably lead to the sharing of incorrect information and/or the office atmosphere growing more negative. The manager’s credibility is undermined, and the employees’ trust dwindles further.

To answer questions and accompany change, managers need to have a lead in knowledge compared to their team. Not only do they need to know information earlier, they also need more details. Incidentally, the same applies to workers’ councils, which, depending on the topic, are even more important confidants than managers.

Conclusion

Appreciation for a person is often measured by how well informed she/he feels. Am I important enough to my company for them to take the time to inform me about significant changes? If the answer to this question is “no”, a negative chain reaction is triggered, this can lead to demotivation, loss of trust, refusal to accept changes, or a resignation in anger. We therefore advise you to plan the communication of important issues in detail and to follow the three basic rules of communication:

  • Internally before externally
  • Managers before employees
  • Concerned before interested parties

After each task in the communication plan, you need to make sure that it has actually been implemented. Because if information processes are run professionally, a company can create the basis for appreciation, trust and motivation – and thus also increases commitment, innovation and loyalty among its staff.

Do you have questions about planning your internal communication? We gladly support you. Just give us a call.

*Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash

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