My head is starting to hurt. My legs are threatening to bolt from the room with me attached. I must be listening to another one of those employee communication myths.

Here’s a collection of some of my…er…favourites:

Employees are too busy to read anything. Employees are busy, there’s no argument there, but who wouldn’t mind reading something, if it they saw a tangible benefit in doing so? If your communication is meaningful to employees, they will make time to read it…so design your communication with audience benefits in mind.

Employees are overloaded with information so it’s best not to bother them with more. Yes, there is an information overload. Does that mean there is communication? Absolutely not. To achieve quality communication, there must be more than a transfer of information, there must be a transfer of meaning. Share the information but spend time thinking about how to make it more meaningful to employees—don’t just churn out the raw data (except as back-up, of course!).

Employees aren’t interested in hearing about (fill in the blank). Beware of this assumption. It’s often the beginning of a downward spiral in the communication loop. It doesn’t mean that it isn’t true in a few rare cases, but employees don’t like it when someone else decides they don’t need to know something.

Employees expect leadership to come up with the answers. This is a tricky one. Yes, employees like to see leadership earning their pay. However, the concept of leadership is changing. Good leaders listen to people before making decisions. They welcome conflicting opinions and even change direction occasionally. This is not seen as a sign of weakness but as an indication of strength.

Employees can’t handle bad news, so it’s best not to share the bad news burden. This is a classic example of the “Father Knows Best” approach to employee communication. It assumes that even though management is capable of handling bad news, other employees are not. No one likes bad news but employees prefer an honest account of bad news over dishonesty or silence every time.

Employees are tired of surveys and we shouldn’t subject them to any more. Well, okay. So, maybe employees are just a little tired of answering survey questions. The really tiring issue is not so much the survey, as the lack of action as a result of the survey. Why should an employee ever take the time to answer your questions, if nothing ever changes as a result? Or, if changes are made, no one ever gets back to them and tells them about it? If you’re going to do a survey you’d better be sure you make some changes as a result. As a minimum, get back to them with the details about what you did and/or why you haven’t done anything.

Employees don’t want to know why, they just want to know what is being done. Good employees—smart employees—will always want to know the reason behind decisions or actions taken by their organization. Human beings have a built-in inquisitiveness that can’t be denied. Often, knowing the reasons behind something will translate into increased motivation and innovation. Don’t forget to explain the why as well as the what.

Unlocking the vaults: based on an original post from–get ready–2002. 


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