How To Communicate With Your Team During Difficult Times?

As our day to day continues to be disrupted and there are a lot of unknowns over the coming weeks, leaders all over Australia are fielding some difficult questions. You cannot say with any certainty when your team will return to the office, or what things will look like when they do return. But despite the haze, it is so important you keep communicating with your team.

There are many choices to be considered. How much information should you share? What should you share? Do you talk about the financial health of your organisation? As the recession develops, how candid should you be about the possibility of reduction of hours, letting people go? Whilst everyone is experiencing complete uncertainty, how can you provide some light relief and make your team feel better, whilst not giving people a false sense of hope?

What Are The Experts Saying?

We are constantly hearing the term “unprecedented”. But the experience of making it through is not unique to this period of time. In the last 20 years we have experienced other catastrophic events such as the global financial crisis and 9/11 and more recently Brexit (in the UK). Workers have feared for their jobs. The uncertainty that comes along with an “event” causes fear. In the privacy of their homes, people are wondering what it means for the security of their job, their home, their future. As a leader you want to give confidence and provide strength. Even when you are experiencing it yourself, with your own set of worries and fears. Whilst you are also trying to make sense of the situation, you just need to be honest about what the picture looks like. Transparency is essential. Tell them what you know, what you don’t know and what you are doing to understand things further. Also give them some hope and sense of being in the “know”. Providing all this is not exactly a small task.

Are You Prepared?

Before you start talking to anyone in your team, make sure you understand fully the landscape ahead and what are the hurdles you may encounter? Ultimately your goal for the foreseeable is going to be to teach people how to be successful in a significant economic downturn and this is going to be very challenging. It is a great opportunity to show your team the scope of your capabilities and you want to be the person they turn to for some direction and guidance. You must be in the right mindset yourself and this includes being kind to yourself – eating well, exercise and lots of sleep. Take care of yourself, before you turn to help others.

Plan, Plan, Plan

You need to be strategic about how you approach the situation. When will you communicate with your team? How will you keep the channels of communication open as things evolve? The best rule of thumb is be ahead of the game, communicate with them as early and often as you can. Ignoring calls and giving “diplomatic” answers will not cut the mustard. You need to be very clear about when and how frequently you are going to update your team and receive feedback from the company’s senior leadership team. It is recommended you hold regular small group meetings or one-on-ones, so you can gain an understanding of your teams’ issues. In an ideal situation, it would be a good idea to create a forum where employees can ask questions, where you encourage them to use this as their first point of contact when they need their concerns to be addressed quickly.

Who Are You Talking To?

Put yourself in their shoes. If you were them, what would you want to hear? You must ensure any conversations you have are kind and you handle the situation with care. Ultimately they are just looking for some kind of comfort and reassurance. They don’t expect you will have all the answers, but they don’t want to feel like things are being hidden or unsaid and information is being concealed.

Kindness Is Cool

Let’s face it, none of us really know how this is going to play out over the coming months and years. So just admit you don’t know. If someone asks you if there are going to be redundancies and you’ve been told that is being assessed, you are unclear about the situation you could say something like “I really wish I could tell you what is going to happen. I will give you more information as soon as I have it”.

Don’t Avoid The Hard Conversations

Don’t we all want an easy life? You care for your team members, but don’t avoid telling them something because you think people will not take it well. Of course you want to allay their fears and help keep anxiety to a minimal level. But in situations like this, when you omit the truth or skew the facts, you will come across as a liar or someone who really does not understand the situation (or care enough to understand it). For example, if there has been a decision to reduce days from five to four, but the finer details are being worked out, don’t bury your head and act like it’s not happening. The situation will come to light over time and trying to lessen the blow will not work in the long term. When the truth of the matter comes to light in small pieces, trust is damaged. Speak up!

Be An Inspiration

Don’t shy away from the situation. Rise to the challenge. You are a leader and need to act as such. Encourage your team, tell them why they are so great! You can admit that this is a massively challenging time, but you believe in every person in your team and that pulling together is the key. No doubt there will be tough times ahead, but you can talk about your hope that everyone will get through it as a team and you believe in the long-term future of the company. Be the leader you would want – use enthusiastic language, although try to avoid sounding crazed. What would you want to hear and go with that!

Be Supportive

Although you will no doubt have issues of your own, as a leader, make a massive effort to be open to your team’s worries. Connect with them on an individual level and although you cannot control how they react emotionally you can try to mitigate the fears they may have. As many people are continuing to work remotely, you will not be getting a sense of the conversations going on in the kitchen or around the office. You can’t Zoom yourself to death having endless conversations, but you can tell them they’re going to be ok, whatever happens. Be reassuring and open to more emotional conversations than usual.


Contact us – Let’s talk. Call the friendly team at Konnexus us on (03) 8761 9170

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