How to Communicate Organizational Uncertainty

Sending the Right Message in Times of Stress

How to Communicate Organizational Uncertainty - Sending the Right Message in Times of Stress

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"Spray and Pray" strategies can leave people feeling lost and overwhelmed.

Do you want the good news or the bad news?

First, the bad. People dislike uncertainty, so, in these times of accelerated change, it can be hard to know how to keep them informed. But one thing seems certain – "no news" is definitely not "good news."

If you work in a fast-changing industry and you talk to your team about possibilities, some members will interpret what you say as promises for the future, and they'll hold you to account if circumstances change. However, if you keep quiet until you are certain about an outcome, they may feel that they are being kept in the dark and rely on the rumor mill to get (mis)information.

Worse still, if you delay giving information for too long, people will assume that you are uninformed or directionless, because you appear to be reacting to pressure at the last minute, rather than taking a proactive stance.

Communications consultants Phillip Clampitt, Robert DeKoch and Thomas Cashman use the term "the terrible triad" for the situation where staff think that the company's management is "evil for withholding information, stupid because it didn't know what was happening, or helpless, since it didn't react until the last minute."

The good news is that they've worked out how to prevent this "toxic climate" from taking hold. This article discusses their recommendations, and looks at how you can build a positive culture of communication in your organization, one that turns uncertainty into a driver for success.

Types of Communication Strategy

In their article, "A Strategy for Communicating About Uncertainty," Clampitt, DeKoch and Cashman identify five communication strategies that organizations typically use:...

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