Open Communication is a Must, Especially in Tough Times

Employees are scared right now, because many are not sure if they will have a job next month. This fear keeps them from leading their company to prosperity. They are too worried about what might happen instead of being focused on the wonderful possibilities that lay before them.

My friend Sarah’s company made sweeping changes without letting the employees know why they were made. One day they stopped stocking paper cups. She went to the kitchen to grab a cup and it was empty. She doesn’t drink coffee that often, so she was unaware that the cup supply had been dwindling. She searched every drawer, hole and corner for something to hold the caffeinated energy boost – nothing.

Now we have an upset employee who was already in a grumpy mood, so now she’s wondering why she works for a company that can’t stock cups for their employees.

This can lead to complaining and a decline in morale.


If only Sarah knew that her company was cutting costs in order to help the employees. They were trying to cut back so they wouldn’t have to lay anyone off. She actually found this out a week later.

Just imagine how many other employees were mad because of the cup situation. Also imagine how many employees were probably upset as a result of other cost cutting measures.

The signals a company sends to employees are important, and they can be misconstrued if the company fails to communicate properly. Most companies can influence the way employees view certain decisions by communicating the reason behind their choices.

Stomp the Fear

Communication is the antidote to fear. It is also the best way to encourage creativity. We’ll talk about this in a little bit.

People want to know the “why” behind the decisions. We feel more comfortable when we understand things because we are curious beings.

Business has become obsessed with planning. In a good way. We want to know how to motivate people to buy a certain item, for instance. Although we can never get an exact answers, the more we measure the better we get at assessing the success.

To stomp the fear running rampant in tough times, we need to be transparent about company decisions. A plan for open communication must be put in place. This takes guts because the leaders of an organization may expose themselves to ridicule if they don’t make decisions for the benefit of everyone. On the other hand, if they are making quality choices then the employees will trust these decisions and find ways to support their leaders.


The lifeblood of a happy employee is creativity – this enables them to make customers happy, co-workers happy and themselves happy.

When an employee understands the changing rules, they can function within the new guidelines to optimize their work.

Sarah told me that when she found out why the company was getting rid of paper cups, she went home and brought in all the mugs she was going to give to Goodwill. She set up the 9 mugs, in the break room, wrote out a note to her fellow co-workers and placed it next to the mugs.

The mugs were gone by lunch.

Sarah took the extra effort to be a little creative and now she is feeling good for doing a positive deed. Her colleagues also feel good because they a co-worker who cares. A few of them sent her thank you emails.

Organized Communication

If the company would have simply sent out an email explaining why they were making certain decisions, they could have avoided a lot of complaining.

Complaining spreads negativity.

Negativity is a morale killer. So the lesson we can all learn from Sarah’s story is the importance of communicating changes before they go into effect, because then we can ask the employees if they have any solutions. Engaging the employees to think creatively will encourage the organization to adapt.

Has your company made any changes/cutbacks? Were they upfront about the reasons for the change? How do you think they could have handled it better?


Can’t get enough of Communicatrix. Her blog gives me insights into the human psyche. I also love the way she writes, such flair and panache.


Twitter is also a great way to keep up with your work happiness – @workhappynow.

If you liked this post then check these out:

Image courtesy of photo mojo

10 thoughts on “Open Communication is a Must, Especially in Tough Times”

  1. LifeMadeGreat | Juliet

    Hi Karl

    Such an interesting example to show what is so true. And it doesn’t only happen in the workplace.

    The company where I work places a huge emphasis on “transparency”, yet I feel that they just don’t get it right. I’m not sure why… I think perhaps they are trying to do it in every situation and that is simply not possible. But now I am wondering off the topic 😉


  2. Hi Karl: I definitely agree that communication is vital. When you start taking small perks away from employees without any prior warning you add fuel to the rumor mill and you keep people guessing as to what you’ll take away next. Actions like Sarah’s–bringing in mugs for her coworkers to use–definitely help diffuse the tension, but it would have been much better if the employees hadn’t been surprised one day with the news that all the cups were gone and no new cups would be bought.

  3. That’s a mighty nice story. Love it when it works like that.

    And thanks for the kind words. Maybe I’ll try to write SO much, you get TOO much of it!

  4. Great points and a strong message missing in too many workplaces. Transparency around what the company is working to protect and care for is important. You don’t want to necessarily share specifics prematurely or that you are not confident in getting through a situation but showing that you care and having an organization’s management assess that will be far better than surprising them and adding more worry to the situation.

    Great story to demonstrate this!

  5. 100% with you!
    Open communication is a great tool and best performing teams know that. What I also like is vulnerability based trust – communicating to the other party my most sensible stuff, becoming vulnerable. It usually builds great trust and helps to boost personal and team’s performance.

  6. Hi Juliet, transparency isn’t done well by every company. What your company should be doing is asking employees what they are doing right and wrong. They need to make small improvements until they get it right.

    Marelisa, surprise puts a damper on morale. We expect one thing when we come into work and we get another. The mood sinks and it’s hard to pick this back up if it isn’t handled correctly.

    Hi Communicatrix, thanks for stopping by. Always love seeing new faces around here.

    Hi Mike, good point. Management can’t be so transparent that they worry the employees before there is something to worry about. They have to know the majority of the facts and convey to their people what steps will be taken.

  7. Ah I can definitely relate to this. I used to work for a small IT company 3 yrs ago:
    One Monday my colleagues and I arrived at an EMPTY building. The Director gathered us and gave us directions on how to get to our NEW office. When payday came, none of us got paid. We asked questions & no satisfactory answers were provided. We started to speculate between ourselves.
    Then the Director held a meeting and expressed his anger and disappointment about how we (my colleagues and I) were handling the situation. Later that week I’ve had enough and resigned. 4 more people quit shortly after.
    I have worked with (and for) small businesses and in every single one of them, the primary problem had been communication problems.
    When it comes to communication, the most enlightening resource I’ve found so far is Marshall Rosenberg’s “Non-Violent Communication”. You can watch Videos about it here

  8. Hi Karl,

    Great read, and I loved the coffee mug example and what a single employee can do to boost morale, just through simple, practical actions like bringing a few mugs to work. Stumbled!

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