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Sworn to secrecy. G-14 classified. Top Secret and this message will self-destruct.
Every manager has been stuck between the proverbial rock and hard place when it comes to “sharing” information. We all (hopefully) know when to share and when not to…employee personal health info, investigation-worthy stuff, etc., but when should we break that code? When is it ok to let some people know what’s going on in the office or org and when is it not?
There’s no concrete rule of course, as every situation is different. But I will tell you this Mr./Ms. Leader, the respect that your employees have or don’t have for you can all be hinged on how you make this call. I’ll go as far as saying that knowing when to hold or fold them is one true trait of a leader that can’t necessarily be taught, as that type of discernment must already be apart of that leader’s DNA. If it’s not, then you need trusted counsel that knows the climate of the organization and can partner and guide you though this delicate time. If you don’t have that type of Business Partner, then dang it, you just need to take the chance.
When info affects your team directly…
Are you leaving, being promoted, being demoted, re-organizing, changing direction? Well, while the people reporting to you shouldn’t necessarily be privy to every little detail surrounding a change, it’s best to at least communicate the basics 1) before they find out from someone else that isn’t as concerned about keep secrets as you or 2) being totally blindsided when you could have given them a heads up.
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Trust and communication go hand in hand. Can’t have one without the other. Weak managers feel that employee engagement is all about delivering happy messages and trying to keep a smile on everyone’s face. On the contrary; however, engagement comes from people believing that you can deliver the good and the bad news, with the ability to keep enough not to give away all of the plans but enough so that employees will know what they need to do to roll with it or to roll out gracefully and how they fit into the plan.
Information hoarders end up with no one that’s willing to listen when they do decide to talk…to anything at anytime. So while you’re sitting in that meeting having classified info funneled into your head, be sure that strategy and how, when and who to communicate it is at the top of the priority list. If it’s not, the original intent of the news can fall flat and never make it off the ground. Buy-in can make or break your office, and transparency, fairness and discernment is the glue that will keep it all together.