[Human] Nature abhors a [Communication] Vacuum!

A conversation about change reminded me of a [relatively] painful lesson I learned a few years ago.

I was a director [VP] in a medium-sized Professional Services Organisation and we needed to move to a new office. We scoured the area for suitable premises which met our criteria for:

  • Location
  • Public transport links
  • Parking
  • Style and Substance
  • Working conditions etc

Having visited just about every potential location in the area, we turned our thoughts towards building our own offices.

What we didn’t do was to keep the rest of the company advised of our progress!

The rumours circulating the office suggested that we had found somewhere but it was so bad on one or more of these attributes that we didn’t dare tell anyone until the deal was done. Nothing could have been further from the truth.

Fortunately, someone thought I was sufficiently approachable and brought it to my attention.  I was able [with some difficulty] to get an update out to the workforce and allay their fears.

The lesson is that you can’t not communicate and whatever fills the communication vacuum will be much worse than the reality. Saying nothing sends its own message.

So unless you are bound by confidentiality or there is a good business reason for keeping quiet, you must give out all of the relevant information – even if it is to say that you are not making any progress!  If there are good reasons for not making a disclosure – you can communicate that fact too! “We are making progress but don’t want to jeopardise negotiations”, “We can’t comment on this because of … but we will let you know as soon as we can”  etc]. Your team is smart enough to know that not everything can be made public but don’t appreciate being kept in the dark unnecessarily.

It can also be helpful to publicise the criteria you are working to and seek suggestions.

Silence is definitely not golden!

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  • Steve Farnworth  On June 21, 2011 at 1:00 pm

    Well communicated Jim….I couldn’t agree more. The vacuum will be filled and it is much better to be in control of what is filling that void than having to respond to it once someone else has filled it !!!!

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