Keep staff informed about changes

  • Associated Press
  • Thursday, July 29, 2004 9:00pm
  • Business

You’re expanding your small business, and hiring more staffers. Or the opposite – you’re cutting back. Or maybe you’re moving your office. These are all big changes that are bound to unsettle your employees.

Consultants who advise businesses on handling change and owners who have led their companies through changes say communication is critical in helping employees cope.

“Communication is everything … to update the employees on a regular basis about not just what the owner thinks is relevant, but the little things” that are important to workers, said Lisa Aldisert, president of Pharos Alliance, a New York-based consulting firm.

Craig Gipple, a consultant in Florham Park, N.J., and co-author of “Managing Business Change for Dummies,” said communication is the primary way to alleviate uncertainty.

“Without communication in detail, the employee is not going to know what’s really happening and how it’s going to affect them. And they’re going to assume the worst.”

Cammi Bailey, a certified public accountant in Tempe, Ariz., with six employees, had to lay off one worker, a traumatic occurrence in such a small office.

“They were concerned about their jobs. I just sat down and talked to each one of them individually,” Bailey said. “I explained why I had to let a person go, because there wasn’t work.”

At Chapman Healthcare Services Inc., the change was an expansion, with the Vidalia, Ga.-based health care equipment company growing from seven workers to 27 and opening a second office in Savannah.

Company chief G. Biram Chapman said he learned the need to fight rumors and gossip, which foster uncertainty and anxiety. He asked his staff not to pass along – or even listen to – unofficial talk about impending changes.

Meanwhile, Chapman said, “we’re immediately telling folks what is happening, giving them an opportunity to ask questions and give us their concerns.”

It helps to have already been running your company in an open fashion. If employees find you unapproachable in general, they’re not likely to come to you with their concerns when you’re contemplating a big change.

Communication means honesty.

Aldisert advised against making the situation sound better than it is, or trying to talk workers out of any negative reactions. If employees are left “feeling that their quality of life on the job is less than it used to be, don’t try to tell people that it’s not. Don’t sugarcoat the situation,” she said.

Gipple said, “Tell them the bad news as well as why it’s a great thing for them.”

You may also find that being sympathetic to employees’ concerns can be a benefit.

“Force begets resistance, so if you want them to sabotage your change or slow down or not move, just force them,” said Leslie Yerkes, president of Catalyst Consulting Group in Cleveland. “The opposite of force is information, engagement, planning.”

Planning is another antidote to change-related uncertainty. The more you can tell employees what to expect – and that means planning and getting answers on your part – the happier they’ll be.

“A lot of dealing with change is setting expectations” said Chris Cigarran, senior director of training and organizational development with American Healthways, a Nashville, Tenn.-based disease management firm.

American Healthways has undergone a number of changes during its 23-year history, including a migration through different segments of the health care industry. Cigarran also said communication was key to making changes that are successful, but so is having employees who are able to deal with change.

“It starts in the (employee) selection process. Look for people who are go-getters,” he said.

Small Business is a weekly column on the topic by the Associated Press.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Business

The Westwood Rainier is one of the seven ships in the Westwood line. The ships serve ports in the Pacific Northwest and Northeast Asia. (Photo provided by Swire Shipping)
Westwood Shipping Lines, an Everett mainstay, has new name

The four green-hulled Westwood vessels will keep their names, but the ships will display the Swire Shipping flag.

Lead climbers head up their respective routes at Vertical World North on Monday, Nov. 20, 2023, in Lynnwood, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Beginner’s ascent: A newcomer’s guide to indoor climbing

Indoor climbing gyms in and around Snohomish County offer thrills without winter chills.

Alexis Burroughs holds a bigleaf maple leaf while guiding her participants through sensory observation during a forest bathing session Sunday, Nov. 19, 2023, at Lord Hill Regional Park near Snohomish, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
To restore human bond with nature, locals lead forest bathing sessions

A yoga instructor in Bothell and Adopt a Stream in Everett say the meditative practice evokes emotion, health benefits.

Instructor Gael Gebow checks her stopwatch while tracking her group’s exercises during her Boot Camp fitness class Monday, Nov. 13, 2023, at the YMCA in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
YMCA fitness instructor challenges, empowers Everett residents

Gael Gebow has made inclusivity and healthy living her focus in 23 years at the YMCA.

A view of the Broadway construction site of Compass Health’s new mental health facility on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Compass Health dedicates Everett block to housing and behavioral health services

The “state-of-the-art” project is set to total over $90M. The nonprofit has asked for public support.

More than 150 people attend a ribbon cutting event on Nov. 16, 2023 celebrating the completion of Innovation Hall at the University of Washington Bothell and Cascadia College campus. The building, which highlights STEM instruction and research, opens to students in January. Credit: Tara Brown Photography/UW Bothell
New science, math facility opens in January at UW Bothell

Innovation Hall is the first new building to be constructed at the Bothell university campus in 10 years.

Rairdon Auto Group acquires Pignataro VW in Everett

Everett VW dealership is the 12th for the Rairdon Group, which marks 30 years in business this year.

A Keyport ship docked at Lake Union in Seattle in June 2018. The ship spends most of the year in Alaska harvesting Golden King crab in the Bering Sea. During the summer it ties up for maintenance and repairs at Lake Union. (Keyport LLC)
In crabbers’ turbulent moment, Edmonds seafood processor ‘saved our season’

When a processing plant in Alaska closed, Edmonds-based business Keyport stepped up to solve a “no-win situation.”

Angela Harris, Executive Director of the Port of Edmonds, stands at the port’s marina on Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2024, in Edmonds, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Leadership, love for the Port of Edmonds got exec the job

Shoring up an aging seawall is the first order of business for Angela Harris, the first woman to lead the Edmonds port.

The Cascade Warbirds fly over Naval Station Everett. (Sue Misao / The Herald file)
Bothell High School senior awarded $2,500 to keep on flying

Cascade Warbirds scholarship helps students 16-21 continue flight training and earn a private pilot’s certificate.

Rachel Gardner, the owner of Musicology Co., a new music boutique record store on Thursday, Jan. 18, 2024 in Edmonds, Washington. Musicology Co. will open in February, selling used and new vinyl, CDs and other music-related merchandise. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
New Edmonds record shop intends to be a ‘destination for every musician’

Rachel Gardner opened Musicology Co. this month, filling a record store gap in Edmonds. owner Tom Harrison at his brick and mortar storefront on Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Burst pipe permanently closes downtown Everett toy store

After a pipe flooded the store, MyMyToystore in downtown Everett closed. Owner Tom Harrison is already on to his next venture.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.