Straight Talk About Communicating Change
First in a 3-part series

Change has no conscience. Change doesn’t play favorites.

The rate of change is such that we can’t wait to communicate decisions. We must act decisively to meet business needs, and that starts by communicating change.

Change is a necessary part of your business. Considering that your business delivers most of its value from new products, new applications and new features, change is your business.

Today’s marketplace is characterized by velocity, uncertainty, change and ambiguity. As a manager of people you must energize your team to embrace change.

Change sign  grayChange is emotional, not logical
Why is it that organizational changes that you, as a leader, see as financially necessary are often viewed negatively by your employees? For instance, you make a sound business case for a change and your people focus on the personal (and usually negative) aspects.

Change is inherently emotional. Managers may see change as a logical progression of bringing in new products and services to stay competitive. And those same managers believe employees will think the same way. But employees look at change emotionally. Their reaction: ‘Never mind the numbers. How will change affect me?’

Employees’ initial reaction to change will be negative. And that’s natural. The best way to get employees to see the positive side of change is to involve them in the change. Participation brings buy-in.

All major changes – even positive ones—encounter resistance. People aren’t necessarily resisting change as much as they are resisting disruptions the change causes.

When explaining change, balance the financial and organizational emphasis with the human side. Always ask the question, ‘What’s in it for me?’straight talk about communicating change

Reasons why managers don’t communicate
– I don’t have time to communicate
– Employees don’t understand reasons for the change
– Being honest is too risky
– Information is power, and I’m not giving it away

Managers rationalize why they shouldn’t communicate openly and quickly. But these communications myths can prevent you from high performance.

Some managers believe that being honest with employees is too risky—that information they share in a meeting today will be on Twitter before they arrive home that night. Some managers believe that employees can’t handle negative news because employees don’t have the ability to balance the pluses and minuses and arrive at a reasonable conclusion. Other managers are afraid that employees will feed negative news to the competition.

quote for straight talk about communicating changeBut today’s employees are knowledge and sophisticated. They have a personal stake in the company’s welfare. Treating information as ‘confidential’ may keep your competitors in the dark, but your people will stay in the dark, too. Difficult news will end up in the media (traditional and social) eventually, regardless of the restrictions you place on it.

For managers who believe that giving away information weakens their control, consider that sharing information is reciprocal. Put information to work for you. Knowledge achieves maximum effectiveness when it is shared with people who use it every day. The more widely you ‘give away’ knowledge, the more effective and trusted you will be as a manager.

Remember that choosing not to communicate is a way of communicating. What message are you sending your employees?

Next month: How to increase employee acceptance of change.

Cheatham headshot (2)David Cheatham is the founder of Transform Communications, LLC, a communications consultancy specializing in aligning employees and implementing change across the enterprise. The company’s tagline sums up David’s approach to the workplace: Inform, Engage, Inspire. ® David also teaches in the School of Business at Rutgers University. Contact:

© 2015 David Cheatham

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