Who should break the bad news?
In the first of a new column, Jenny Davenport advises choosing the messengerto suit the message It’s redundancy time again with organisations back in restructuring anddownsizing mode. It raises some particular challenges for internalcommunication. The issue organisations most often bungle is the choice of messenger. Surveyafter survey shows that line managers are the preferred and most crediblecommunicators for most topics with their teams. They can make the information relevant to their teams and people rarely feelconstrained about expressing their views in the safety of their own teammeetings. So with a good feedback system, the organisation can have a quicksense of people’s reactions. However, it is worth considering when line managers are not the rightmessengers. This can be when the information is outside their experience and they cannotadd value to it by explaining the relevance to the team, or reasonably answerquestions about it. This scenario might include for example major strategicchange. This sort of communication is best done by more senior managers and bywritten material which people can absorb at their leisure. The right time formanagers to be the channel for communication is when plans are beingcontemplated. Line managers are also not the most appropriate when decisions are beingcontemplated or communicated that are potentially worse news for managers thantheir teams. In one bad example, an organisation was centralising a service. It wasformerly provided by a number of regional departments, but surveys indicatedthat customers wanted a consistent service no matter where in the country theywere. Regional managers were to lose some of their responsibilities, but theywere the only losers. There would be no danger of job losses to their teams. It was indeed good news for some team members who were bearing the brunt ofdiscontented customers complaining about the variable service. The organisation had an excellent and well-established team-briefing system,which was used to communicate this change without really considering how themessage would be relayed by angry regional managers. There was uproar among their teams, with an inundation of furious feedbackforms and quite unnecessary indignation. The lesson learned was that when themessage is bad news for managers or team leaders, make sure a more seniormanager does the communicating. Jenny Davenport, director of People in Business Related posts:No related photos. Who should break the bad news?On 6 Nov 2001 in Personnel Today Previous Article Next Article Comments are closed.