Transparent or need to know basis?

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How much information should a leader really share with employees? Some bosses are like Col. Jessup played by Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men in thinking their employees “can’t handle the truth.”

Communication continues to be cited as a problem in nearly all organizations. Solving communication problems is kind of like finding a cure for the common cold. Instead of fixing it, we put up with the symptoms.

One of our clients measured the time it took for a juicy rumor to spread from the front office to the shipping dock. 20 minutes! And yet at the same time it can take months or years to deliver key management messages.

An organization with an over active grapevine tends to be one where the official lines of communication are either overly controlled or not plentiful enough in their sharing.

Many managers, supervisors and executives are overly guarded in what they communicate. Either this is because the manager feels it unnecessary to share information or thinks that employees need not concerns themselves with information seemingly irrelevant to their specific job function. Certainly leaders do need to be cautious when musing about what might happen down the road. However, when it comes to discussing present-day facts and past performance we encourage over communication. Employees have such a desire to know what is going on they will make up information if management isn’t communicating enough.

Putting the Ideas into Action

  1. Do you have information that employees would like to know? Is there a down side to sharing it? Would employees be more likely to help you achieve success if they knew more about what was going on? Then begin sharing more. When holding back information, ask yourself if there is a good reason to do so.
  2. Use all means available to you – town hall meetings, one on ones, emails, newsletters.
  3. Be prepared to repeat yourself. Key messages can take a long time to sink in so repetition will help.
  4. Observe how morale and attitude improves with more frequent communication about what is going on.