Employee communication experts agree that bad news should be delivered by organization leaders in a face-to-face forum. However, according to a recent survey conducted by the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC), only 37 percent of companies use face-to-face meetings with employees as their primary vehicle to communicate difficult news. The survey also examined the level of success of organizations at delivering bad news to employees, the different communication vehicles used, and the number of corporate leaders who spin issue-related news.
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January 20, 2006
San Francisco, CA -- Employee communication experts agree that bad news should be delivered by organization leaders in a face-to-face forum. However, according to a recent survey conducted by the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC), only 37 percent of companies use face-to-face meetings with employees as their primary vehicle to communicate difficult news.
Based on the IABC survey, besides face-to-face meetings, the other vehicles used by organizations to deliver bad news to employees are e-mails (29%), letters or memos (12%), internal employee web sites (8%), teleconferences or videoconferences (6%), and company newsletters (3.5%). Experts stress the importance of face-to-face communication followed by additional materials such as web site FAQs, e-mail messages or intranet postings. For less sensitive news, employee publications or the company intranet may suffice.
In addition, the survey found that the most important element in maintaining employee engagement in a difficult situation is open and honest communication from top management. Open communication allows leaders to demonstrate that they understand the problem and are prepared to lead the company through it. More than half of the survey respondents agreed that spinning issue-related news is the worst thing a company can do. While most corporate leaders seem to understand this, 47 percent of the survey respondents said that their organizations did spin issues to some degree.
According to IABC’s vice president of chapter relations & development, Gretchen Hoover, who conducted the survey, “Organizations are realizing that, even in a crisis, good communication keeps employees engaged. Even though employees may not like the bad news, an honest, well-thought-out message combined with thorough preparation and a good communication plan will make complications easier to bear and keep the organization moving forward.”
The survey, which was sent to IABC members who specialize in employee communication, received 292 responses. More details on the survey findings appear in a recent issue of Communication World magazine. The article is available online at http://www.iabc.com/cw (member log-in required).