An absence of messages, particularly in times of corporate change, means employees will draw their own conclusions. Whether you’re in the midst of a merger, pursuing a new business strategy or introducing a new piece of technology – you don’t need to be told that change is a constant in corporate life. Wrestling with the logistics of change can be all-consuming. Sadly, good communications are often abandoned in the rush. And the very people who you need to buy in to the change – your employees – are ignored.
Not only are employees free to draw their own conclusions from the absence of content; more dangerous still is the absence of a context within which the message might have been conveyed and better understood. Without that, imaginations run rampant. Here’s five things silence might say about your organisation:
1. We don’t know what we’re doing: Maybe we’re not telling you because we don’t know ourselves.
Employee conclusion: If you, the business, don’t understand your objectives, then you shouldn’t expect much from us.
2. We don’t believe in it: We think we know what we’re doing (because someone has told us) but we don’t believe it. So we aren’t going to risk embarrassment by going on the record with something that then falls flat.
Employee conclusion: Why should we commit to the organisation’s objectives if you can’t?
3. We’re too busy to tell you: This message often comes sweetened: we’re too busy now, but we’ll tell you (when we decide) you need to know; you are so important that we want to get the message just right for you.
Employee conclusion: We don’t matter. We’re not spoken to when we feel we should be, but rather when you think we should be. Clearly we are out in the cold, so you can keep your corporate message.
4. We haven’t thought through the implications of our silence: Maybe we’re aware of the risks inherent in the points above but the effects haven’t registered. For example, we haven’t thought about what it means if, in the absence of a coherent message from us, information is obtained from the media, or worse, a competitor.
Employee conclusion: We are working for the wrong organisation.
5. We don’t care about the implications: We know the risks, but we just don’t care: We’ll just tough it out. Where will our employees go? Sales are OK. Dividends are up.
Employee conclusion: We’re off.
The point is, your communication campaign is as vital – possibly more so – than the strategy it supports. Of all the internal communication messages broadcast, the nosiest one is silence.