Financial turmoil requires internal communications

Ever since Lehman Brothers' employees were spotted leaving the company's Midtown Manhattan headquarters in casual wear with their desks' contents shuttled out in duffel bags, the American worker has been feeling uneasy.

Ever since Lehman Brothers' employees were spotted leaving the company's Midtown Manhattan headquarters in casual wear with their desks' contents shuttled out in duffel bags, the American worker has been feeling uneasy. A recent study from Weber Shandwick showed that more than half of the US employees surveyed had not heard anything from their bosses about how the current economic crisis would affect their company. This is completely irresponsible, and moreover, detrimental to the company as a whole.

By not addressing the rotation of dour financial news that has been playing 24 hours a day for the last month, executives are allowing employees to gossip among themselves about the situation. In fact, the WS survey found that about three-quarters of workers are discussing the situation with colleagues, allowing rumors to spread.

First, workers need to hear from both the company's leaders and the middle managers with whom they interact on a daily basis. Face-to-face communications are ideal during times like this, complemented by webcasts and written information. In addition, younger workers would benefit from hearing from someone who has weathered a previous recession.

Some from the C-suite might say, “Well, I don't have the answers, so there's nothing I can say,” but today, employees would rather hear the truth than silence. Arguably, most people realize it's going to be a tough climate for a while. This can be a point to energize an office on, rather than focusing on the bad. Give employees a forum to discuss concerns, and use that feedback to enact positive change and re-earn trust.

There are bound to be more crises as the market turmoil continues, so communication cannot be a one-shot deal. Consistent, face-to-face discussions will help retain employees' confidence in the company and maintain productivity as workers focus energy on their tasks, rather than gossip.

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