Communicating change

Change isn’t coming. Change is here. Covid-19 has seen to that.  Millions of people who have never before worked from home are now expected to telecommute. Meetings are now done exclusively online – even at the highest levels. And even for people like me who work from home on a regular basis, the way we work has changed dramatically.

The problem is that people don’t like change – even if that change is subtle. A recent article from Bain & Company pointed out that change, particularly during a crisis, reduces people’s sense of control, which would explain why even small changes could cause problems. How you communicate these changes is more important than ever. Here are some tips:

  • Keep communications short and to the point. Stress makes it more difficult for people to hear, understand, and recall information. Studies have shown that during times of crises, people can only absorb three ideas and attention spans shrink to 12 minutes. So, keep emails and meetings short, use bullet points and graphics where possible, and use straightforward language.
  • Choose the messenger carefully. According to Bain & Co, “people judge the messenger before the message itself.” The person giving the message has to be someone your audience trusts. If possible, avoid sending messages directly from head office, because those getting the message have no idea who these people are or if they can be trusted. Instead, give the message to local/team leaders to pass on. Just be sure the message is consistent.
  • Be transparent and let people know you care. If you put up a wall, all that lovely trust disappears, so let everyone know what you are doing and why. And while you’re at it, let them know you understand and care. Empathy builds trust and lowers anxiety levels, which means they might actually listen to what you have to say.

In keeping with my own advice, I’m going to finish with that last thought. In my next article, I’ll talk about the specific language of change in English and how this differs from regular softening techniques.

What communications challenges are you facing at the moment? Leave a comment below and let’s get this conversation started!

My name is Laura Marshallsay, and I help professionals improve their English so they can present themselves to the world with confidence.

If you found this article helpful, check out my new online course, Complex Emails Made Simple. In this course, I cover email structure and formality, politeness and softening, and writing difficult emails. A great course to help you every day!

Just don’t learn English. Own it!


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