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This report focuses on importance of communication system in organisation which can be used for successful implementation of change. It discusses about good news and bad news in organisation, the best way to deliver news, communication strategies which will help in effective communication and the role of manager in breaking bad news.
In this scenario, X company is implementing change in organisation by relocating its Customer support team and IT department in a new country. They have also decided to reduce the operational costs by job cuts. The board of director has appointed COO of the company to announce the decision to the employees. But delivering the news is not a straight forward task as there are many implication of the news. The change will result in job loss and day to day activities of many employees will be affected. To deliver the news effectively within the organisation there should be effective internal communication channel. Following section discusses the need of effective communication and its role in implementing change.
Change is the process of changing the ways things are being done for betterment of the business process or to incorporate new ideas. Implementing change in organisation can be a risky task as every organisation wants to implement change successfully. Changes may be due to introduction of new technology or new system, relocation of the company at new place, company mergers with other company, impacts of new trends due to customer preference or government policies etc (Industrial Relations Victoria, n.d). While incorporating change, management should not only consider its effect on its business but also on its employees and other people who are directly or indirectly linked with the business.
Effective communication is a very essential factor for implementing change in an organisation. It helps to keep employees informed about the transition business is going to make and its impact on their working pattern. For the change to be successful, organisation must have strong internal communication process. Inefficient communication will leave employee in uncertainty. They would not what is going on and how their work pattern would be affected. Further more employees will think the business is hiding something from them and may create misunderstanding.
Communication may be internal among the employees or external with the shareholders or customers. It helps to share and exchange information, ideas and thoughts between the management and employees or between the business and its customers. It is even more important when the organisation is going to implement change. In business term, communication is essential for effective teamwork, technical excellence and customer responsiveness (Emerald insight staff, 2004). It helps to create mutual understanding between the management and the employees.
According to the Argenti (1998), it is very important for the company to think how they communicate with their employees now more than they did in the past. This has been verified by the report published by the Communications Executive Council (CEO) in 2004. 79% of the respondent stated that communication performance measurement was more important now than it had been in the last three years.
Effective communication is not only essential during the time of change but should be implemented in the whole life time of the organisation. It will help organisation to achieve its organisational goals and objectives easily. It will also help individual to achieve a shared understanding of the problem, encourage others to take actions and motivate others to have new ideas. Many organisations have developed internal communication strategies to bridge the communication gap between management and the employees. Communication manager who has detail knowledge and understanding of the company, employees and the system is also appointed. Smith et al. (2005) state that effective internal communication results in informed and engaged workforce which helps to produce better result in an organisation.
In day to day business, there might be some good news and some bad news which is essential to be communicated in the organisation. These news might directly or indirectly affect its business and the employees. Good news might be profit, expansion, promotions of employees, bonus, incentives etc. While, bad news might be company going on loss, job loss due to situation beyond organisation's control, redundancy, cost cutting etc. Likewise, implementing change will bring with it some good and some bad news in the organisation.
Organisation must communicate both good and bad news properly and effectively to its employees. Many managers find easy to relay good news than bad news. But however hard it might be, bad news must also be properly communicated. Proper communication will help to reduce stress and employees will be prepared regarding what to expect.
According to Ackley (1992), "Communicating bad news to employees is one of the most important and difficult challenges organisations face." This is one of the unpleasant situations for managers. Ackley has outlined five basic facts of bad news which makes it essential to be communicated properly. They are:
There is no alternative called "Let's not communicate." - Organisation must not try to hide any bad news from its employees as bad news often finds its own way to spread. And this situation would be worst for the business than the bad news itself. It will leave employees to speculate and they may not trust the management.
Bad news should be communicated honestly - Whenever there is bad news, organisation must explain the reasons why it happened, what effect it has in the organisation and the measures organisation is taking to minimise its effect. COO must explain the reason of change and its effect to the employees.
Supervisors and managers must be included early, kept fully informed and remain supportive - Organisation must fully inform their employees from the beginning. They should inform them about the situation and its possible effect. Discussing the issue from the start might give new solution to the problem. Some employees might have new ideas regarding how to turn things round which the management might have missed.
Proper planning prevents poor performance - When communicating bad news, the communicator must be confident and should know what he is going to say. If necessary they should rehearse the speech. Planning helps to focus and they know exactly what they are going to say. They should also be ready for any questions that will be thrown at them. COO has to plan in advance for the things he is going to say and how he is going to tackle any questions put by the employees.
The worst alternative that management considers is likely to be communicated through the grapevine - Employees want to work for companies which treat their employees in good manner even when they are being terminated from their service. If an employee is treated badly during the termination, other employees will soon come to know about it. Hence organisation should know the right time and right way to delivering bad news and how it should be delivered.
Since bad news cannot be avoided, organisation must devise effective ways to communicate it rather than not communicating at all. If organisation tries to hide bad news, it will find another medium to spread among employees which can be even disastrous to the company. Delaying delivery of bad news may build frustration and can make the situation worst. Hence, it should be communicated honestly and professionally using different techniques depending upon the circumstances in which the news is delivered.
Effective communication strategy is essential for delivering successful message which will be properly understood by the employees. In the following section, communication strategy for effective delivery of bad news is discussed. These are only guidelines and organisations have to choose the one which is suitable for them. Strategy used can be changed depending upon the type of bad news and people being affected by it. Some of the points which should be considered while developing the strategy are as follows (Media Trust, n.d).
Objectives - All news have an objective, the communicator must first determine the objective of communicating the news and its impact. Without identification of the objective, the delivery of the news will not have strong effect and may lead to confusion or misunderstanding. Hence, it is the duty of the COO to determine the objective of the bad news which he is going to deliver and the information which will be included.
Audiences - News delivery style has to be changed depending upon the audience which is going to be affected by the news. Thus, COO should identify the audience first which will be affected by the news. Proper identification of the audience will help to structure the communication strategy in suitable way. All the people who will be directly and indirectly affected by the news must be considered. In this case, the audience directly affected will be customer support team and IT department and other employees who will lose their job due to reduction of operation costs. And those who will be indirectly affected are other employees of the organisation who constantly deal with customer service team and IT department.
Message - COO must deliver clear and concise message which is free from jargon and easily understood by the employees. Unclear message will be misleading and create misunderstanding among employees. All the employees might not have same level of understanding hence COO must be prepared to use simple words avoiding words which are misleading and have double meaning. Unclear message will only create distress among employee as they would not be
Tools and activities - These can be termed as medium which can be used for delivery of the news. There are number of medium which can be chosen for delivery of the bad news. The best one should be chosen depending upon the type of news being delivered and people who will be affected by it. COO has to decide in advance which medium he is going to use for delivery of the bad news.
Resources and timescales - Identify the suitable person for delivery of the news and the timescale in which the news has to be delivered. In this case board of directors have given this responsibility to COO of the company.
Evaluation and amendment - The success of news delivery is only possible if it is delivered to the right audience by right delivery medium and everyone understands the objectives. It is not guaranteed that same medium will be effective to deliver different news. Hence, COO must practise the ways in which he is going to deliver the news and make changes if required. COO must see how effective the chosen delivery method will be and if necessary be ready use different medium.
Only developing strategy for delivering bad news is not enough, the communicator has some responsibility which must be considered. According to Daley, K. (2009) there are four responsibilities which have to be carried out by person delivering bad news. They are:
Do it as soon as possible - COO should plan a way to deliver bad news as soon as possible as the employees may know the news through other channels which might lead to speculations and create anxiety among employees. Delaying delivery will create anxiety and the organisation may also lose its creditability.
There are different medium which can be used for delivery of bad news such as: face-to-face interview, letter, memos, meetings, announcements etc. But which medium to be used depends upon the extent of bad news and people who are being affected by it. Email is worst medium of delivering bad news and if possible should be avoided.
Speak honestly - COO should be honest about the situation while breaking the news and provide all the important details. He should be fully prepared for the announcement and practice the presentation if required. He should appear sincere and confident to the employees and should be able to look at the audience in their eyes. Hiding the truth will only make the situation worst and employees many not trust the employer again.
Give them the big picture - While delivering bad news, instead of going straight to bad news, first the employees should be made aware of the context of the problem and then deliver the bad news quickly. Ensure to give details of the problem, its effect and the decisions chosen by management for tackling the problem.
Plan for question - When finished delivering the news, employees should be given chance to ask any question they might have regarding the news or the solution planned by the organisation. COO must be prepared to answer all the questions asked by the employees. He should anticipate the questions he might be asked and should be ready to answer them properly.
To some people, delivering bad news is hard decision and if not prepared may not be able to put the message across properly. Hence, COO must be prepared to tackle any obstacle which might arise during the delivery of the news. Some of the obstacles might be:
Fear - In some situations, the communicator might be afraid of how the employees would react to the news. In order to face these situations, the communicator must evaluate the situation properly and devise better ways to break the news (Lett, n.d).
Negative atmosphere - Delivery of the news also depends on the atmosphere in which it is being delivered. Bad lightning in the room or inappropriate atmosphere may distract the employees and they may be unable to focus on the news (Lee, n.d).
Lack of knowledge - The matter which is being communicated might not be difficult for employees to understand which might create confusion. Hence, COO must chose layman's terms which is easy for employees to understand (Lee, n.d).
Emotional distress - When delivering bad news, different people may react in different ways. No one can control someone else's emotion. The communicator should learn to sense tension and body language of people (Lee, n.d).
Hence, for effective delivery of the news, there should be proper internal communication channel in the organisation. The person delivering the bad news (in this case COO) should be well prepared in advance about the things he is going to say and the information he is going to include.
In conclusion, change is inevitable in organisation and with effective communication system in place; business can achieve its goals and objectives successfully. In this scenario, COO has the responsibility to develop a communication strategy to relay the news. The strategy discussed is only a guideline and can be changed according to the requirement of the organisation. It also discusses the quality a communicator needs to have while delivering the news. Hence, the COO must be fully prepared while delivering news, he should know what he is going to say, how he is going to tackle questions and appear confident in front of the employees. Hence, effective communication is a must for an organisation to success and to incorporate change successfully.
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