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11/9/12 6:16 AM Rebecca Whittenberger

Use honest, direct internal communication to overcome organizational dysfunction caused by change.

It is natural that employees will resist change. Effective internal communication plays a critical role in helping employees to embrace change.

Regardless of what people will tell you to your face, change is stressful and unwanted. Most of the time change happens, and employees have had little to do with the process. It upsets work environments and is disruptive.

And while an open communication policy can make a big difference, it needs to be more than just lip service. Leaders can say what they want about including and listening to employees. In the end, employees will judge their leadership based on their actions or lack of action, not on what leaders say.

Inconsistencies result in low morale, and it is good to remember that open door policies are not a panacea. There still needs to be a clearly articulated vision that is presented by company leaders.


#1 - Establish trust

Be consistent with what you say and what you do. This can be easier said than done, especially when communicating change through layers of management in a cascade style. It is often better for senior management to communicate directly with everyone in the company.

Direct communication has proven to be effective in dealing with feelings of mistrust as shown in the article “Change Management: the role of internal communication and employee development” by Tony Proctor and Ioanna Doukakis published in Corporate Communications: An International Journal, Volume 8, No. 4. The message is consistent when it is communicated directly from top management to everyone. Middle management can color or reinterpret the message when it’s passed down from senior leaders.

#2 - Leverage technology

In a mid-to-large-sized company, there isn’t enough time in the day for managers to meet individually with employees. Email and intranet are efficient platforms for delivering messages, but these communications are misunderstood half the time according to research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

With something as sensitive as change, consider recording a video. It’s a medium that captures facial expressions, hand gestures, and vocal inflections, which improves communication.

Over half of communication is non-verbal. Video captures these non-verbal cues. A recording has an advantage over a webinar or meeting in that it can be viewed at any time by employees. They can watch it at a time that is optimal and also replay the message if needed for clarification.


#3 - Involve communication experts

Marketing communicates ideas and concepts. Involve your marketing team in the creation of effective messages that will be remembered and understood. Leverage their expertise in creating compelling communications and campaigns that will clearly communicate objectives and get your employees’ attention.


#4 - Articulate the pain of NOT changing

In order to motivate change, the reason for the change must be clearly articulated. The first case that must be made is how much worse everything will be if changes aren't made.

From financial collapse to unhealthy work environments, show employees the pain that is being avoided by changing now. Once the status quo has been confronted and torn down, you can show a new vision without competing with the ghosts of the company's past.

Overcoming common obstacles

Employee resistance and communication breakdown were the top two issues facing organizations going through a change initiative according to SHRM’s 2007 Change Management Survey Report. The implementation of these tips can help overcome these issues through effective communication from top management to the rest of the organization.

After direct communication from senior management, middle management can work with employees in work teams to implement the strategic change initiative. Human resources can provide ongoing communication and information to help employees cope with the day-to-day changes introduced by company initiatives.

Today's blog post written by Brad Gant

Photo Attribution: bottled_void

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