The first adrenaline rush of Covid-19 is over and your business is still operating and functional. Let me tell you what I predict is going to happen as your staff settle in to their new normal.
Sorry to break it to you, but I expect that your staff are going to feel unnerved and frustrated, and that they’re going to want to take it out on you.
The good news is: you can act fast and act first to stop these currents of unhappiness from sweeping silently through your organisation and undermining your new BAU. What you need to do is increase communications with your staff – the right style of communication, through the right kinds of channels, .
Let me step you through my thinking…
By now, your employees have probably gotten used to how to work in a pandemic, and how to live in a country at risk. Fuelled by adrenalin and fear, most have dutifully followed the guidance of the authorities in our lives – the WHO, the Health Department, the Prime Minister, their trusted media outlet… and you, their CEOs and senior managers.
But as we head into Easter, when workers are spending their long weekend in ways they wouldn’t normally, a few pennies will start to drop. People will start to think about how their plans have been changed, their systems upset, their pleasures cut off and their comfort zones unpleasantly reshaped.
As human beings, we’re not good when in a new and challenging environment for extended periods. At work, as well as out of work, your staff have had to change their ways – they can no longer recharge and revitalise themselves in the ways they’re used to.
They will also be stretched really thin by the overwhelming new demands they face, with new virus measures seemingly every day, home-schooling, old people’s homes in lockdown, and ongoing vigilance around and toilet paper. Their tolerance is being diminished, meaning they’ll be much less able to deal with anything difficult or unusual.
What all this adds up to is this: Your staff will start feeling uncomfortable, which inevitably means the slightest trigger will become a target for them to offload their frustration.
You can expect your employees to start pushing back and fighting against restrictions that have been imposed without their control. They’ll start rebutting your authoritative decision-making and looking for someone to blame (because it’s not the decision they would have made, of course). And we all know that CEOs and senior managers carry the biggest bullseyes on their forehead when the going gets tough.
So this is what I suggest to transform that situation before it can even start: now is the time to increase communications with staff and stakeholders alike.
Make sure you’re sharing with your staff why you’re making decisions, and make sure the lines of communication are open and flowing in both directions.
Those authoritative decisions were the right thing to do when your organisation and the world was in “, but now you need to start guiding your organisation through influence – and clear, strategic communications is one vehicle for this.
As an ex-comms manager, here are some of my best tips for using your communications to influence your workplace:
√ Don’t assume that everyone communicates in the style that makes sense to you. Ask your staff how they want to receive communications, and tailor your messages accordingly, even if that means multiple channels. √
√ Be open to the channels that your staff suggest. If the Catholic Church can have a Facebook page, then you can have a messenger bot! People are starting to turn away from some forms of communication, so get ready to share your message across new and varied channels. Great time to get with the times.
√ Work out how to share both shallow as well as deep dives to enable staff to choose the level of engagement they need – and remember to keep information flowing in both directions.
√ Wrap your message up in a story. Make your message personable, genuine and direct – people are more likely to read something about you than something from youAnd when the message is unavoidably long, use bold text and headings to keep it in digestible chunks so people can pick and choose what they need.
√ Play down the scare factor 100-fold. Enough already, we’re all worn out by an overload of bad news and terrifying statistics.
√ Talk about the elephants in the room. Don’t ignore the rumours, concerns and worries that are rattling around your virtual office via means you can’t even see – devise a response for staff and stakeholders that looks them in the eye. The trust dividends will be as big as that invisible elephant was.
(I do have one other great trick for influencing people, but sadly it’s a bit too long for this blog post… Drop me a line if you want to learn more about it.)
This is the moment for you to take charge of the conversation about your organisation’s future and limit the fallout of staff hunting for a scapegoat. Communicate frequently and carefully with your stakeholders, be considerate and honest, and don’t be above paying attention to how their responses can guide your actions and your .
Communicate as if your organisation depended on it – it just might.
PS One simple words can make a significant difference in your communication. Here’s some powerful research from Harvard Professor, Helen Langer about the word “because” which I use in my coaching all the time. Try it at home as well.