Workplace changes: How to tell your team

From time to time, every business leader has to deliver news that’s tough for employees to hear. Even if the company is doing well, structural changes, such as acquisitions or reorganisations, can affect people’s jobs.

This can cause concerns, as each employee wonders how it will impact them personally, assuming it’s bad news.

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Making announcements like these can be daunting, as it can soon go awry if the speech is not planned properly, or if it is poorly delivered.

Business leaders must communicate the news in a way that will help recipients to understand fully what’s happening, so they may adjust well and recover quickly from bad news.

Learning how to tell your team about workplace changes will have a massive impact on the atmosphere. Depending on how sensitively you touch upon the subject, it can affect whether the news will have a negative or positive outcome.

Planning the meeting

Preparing for an announcement is as important as the announcement itself. Planning the structure of the meeting properly will have a direct impact on workplace morale thereafter.

Consider hiring a meeting room for comfort and professionalism. Plan more time than you believe is necessary, so that you can include questions and answers at the end.

Always be prepared for unexpected responses from attendees. Some managers try role-playing prior to the meeting to be ready for any kind of question and to devise answers in advance. Prepare the content, the delivery and the necessary follow-up after the announcement.

What should you expect?

Typically, organise an initial meeting for everyone affected, including a video conference option for delegates at different sites.

When it’s a major announcement that will affect everyone, ensure all employees find out simultaneously to avoid speculation and gossip beforehand. You should also plan for a series of individual and team conversations to follow up.

You may find some will start asking inappropriately detailed questions at the initial meeting to gauge whether the ramifications have been fully considered. However well-prepared you are, you might find it tough to answer some of them.

Once you’ve made it clear that individuals will have the opportunity to continue formal and informal discussions afterwards, they should be more able to keep their emotions in check.

Explaining the changes

Make sure the changes are explained clearly, so that all team members understand the implications. Be honest about the impact it will have on the business and the team, with mention of specific suggestions to improve implementation where possible.

Try to provide choices to those who might be affected. This will show your team that you have considered all options. Giving the affected people as many alternatives as possible and a chance to participate fully in the transition process shows you respect them.

Make sure everyone has the necessary information and support, as the more involved they feel, the more likely they will be to help generate practical ideas. Even when it’s tough decisions, such as implementing cost-cutting measures, when people have the full picture, they can look for ways to help out.

Don’t assume you know what’s best for each individual. Some studies have found that employees often come up with suggestions that will benefit the company as a whole and enable more people to keep their jobs, for example, even though it will adversely affect their own personal situation.

Demonstrate responsibility

Demonstrate responsibility, as well as authority. Many business leaders mistakenly believe they’ll endear themselves to the team, despite shaking up their lives, by saying they’re suffering too. However, trying to treat the problem as a shared one can backfire, as employees can feel they are being manipulated.

Instead, say something like, “I’m sorry I didn’t anticipate this situation,” to show you take the impact on others seriously. If you don’t have answers to all the questions, tell attendees you’ll get back to everyone within the week with an answer. Don’t try and muddle your way through. People would rather wait a short while for the right answer than be given the wrong one.

Although it can feel unnecessarily time-consuming to plan and work through all the details, knowing you have done everything in your power to help employees understand and weather the challenges they are facing will result in people respecting your leadership. It will also make it all the more satisfying when you achieve the desired outcome.

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