In HR we try to impress on managers the importance of consistent and effective communication. It is best way to avoid many problems and misunderstandings is by communicating with employees. A solid communication strategy helps managers remain consistent in their messaging and aids in developing a employee/boss relationship founded on trust and respect.
Science of Effective Communication in the Workplace
Research by psychologist Heath Demaree, of Case Western Reserve University has shown that people who experience a surprising outcome reduce their risk-taking behavior. This is regardless if the outcome is positive or negative. According to Demaree “Surprising events are known to cause animals to stop, freeze, orient to the surprising stimulus and update their schemas of how the world works. Our recent research suggests that surprising events also cause people to temporarily reduce risk-taking.” This is akin to the “deer-in-the-headlights” syndrome. Apparently people also experience that syndrome as well.
In business where risk-taking is critical to the success of the business the last thing you want to do is reduce this business-critical behavior by making surprise changes or announcements. The more you can communicate the business or workplace environment to employees, the better off you are in a number of situations. Because having an employee freeze up or fail to perform at that critical moment in the workplace can effect the bottom line as well as your workplace culture.
Manager Communication Strategy 101
Obviously we cannot be open all the time, and there will be some things you just cannot communicate ahead of time. I just caution you to realize that surprise announcements do have an effect on employee behavior. For managers and senior organizational leaders, this especially holds true. By keeping this communication strategy in mind, and how sudden announcements effect employees in that deer in the headlight sort of way, we can plan ahead and help reduce that element of shock and surprise.
Michael (Mike) D. Haberman, SPHR is a consultant, writer, speaker, teacher and co-founder of Omega HR Solutions, Inc. He has been in the field of HR for 30 years as both practitioner and consultant. He specializes in compliance issues for his small business clients. He is the author of the blog HR Observations which can be found at www.omegahrsolutions.com and he has been writing blog posts on a full spectrum of HR topics for almost seven years. He is an active user of Twitter and can be found at @mikehaberman or @HRComplianceGuy. He has been an instructor in HR for 14 years and has helped many people achieve their PHR or SPHR during that time.