I experienced an interesting intersection or convergence of thoughts from two things I read. They deal with change and communication.
It is a truism that is often repeated in human resources circle. “Employees resist change.” Thus it is difficult for HR to institute change and to make change last. However, an interesting take on this is presented by Stephen M. Millett, the author of Managing the Future. Millet says: “My experience is that employees do not oppose change itself; they oppose loss – the threats of losing their jobs, promotions, benefits and friends.” And indeed often what we offer in change initiatives is just that, loss.
Seth Godin, author of Whatcha Gonna Do With That Duck? had a similar thought when he said “People don’t like doubt., so they pay money and give up opportunities to avoid it.”
The common denominator in both these thoughts is communication. Employees don’t like doubt especially when the doubt comes from the uncertainty of change. It is important to communicate the nature of change as completely as possible to help remove the doubt. But Millett also suggests that any change “…has to be framed as innovations, reforms, and improvements that will likely fulfill everybody’s needs.”
Of course not all change is going to be viewed in a positive light. Sometimes bad news is just bad news. But being open and honest in communication and removing any doubt about the consequences of the change will go a long way in helping employees understand what course of action they need to take.
Naturally there will situations, that for a competitive reason, the “truth” cannot be revealed until the last moment. Unfortunately those situations can lead to situations like the firm that called together an entire department for a Christmas party and then fired them all on the spot. They did not want them to have access to confidential information after termination. That is the kind of communication that makes for legends of “bad HR”.