Fear of the unknown is greater than certainty of an unwelcome outcome

Much has been written about the value of giving people as much information as possible about the organisation, including any unwelcome news. In the absence of certaint, rumor will fill the gap, and it is usually worse than the actual.

I was reminded of this recently having a yarn over a meal with a bunch or people I worked with some time ago, who were facing  the  reorgansation of the business subsequent to a takeover, and the probable redundancy of many of them. 

As GM of a division of this business, I had closed a number of operational sites to increase the returns of the business. In the first, I followed the corporate policy exactly, turned up on the morning with a letter for each employee, a redundancy calculation, and the HR manager and security. Suffice to say it was not pleasant, and there were repercussions.

Some time later, I had to close a second plant, same reason, it simply was underperforming drastically, and had become surplus to the need. This time, I called a meeting, and told the personnel of the decision 6 months in advance of the planned closure, explained the reasons, and the steps that would be taken to ensure they all had as much of an opportunity as possible to move to other sites, or find other jobs. To my surprise, they were pleased that finally they knew their fate rather than being forced to speculate on it, and the timetable. In the following 6 months as operations wound down, productivity went up, attendance went up, product losses went down, and the financials improved markedly.

The lesson, once people know what will happen, and when, why, and how it will impact them with some certainty, they were able to get on with the job without the corrosive impact of uncertainty.


About strategyaudit

StrategyAudit is a boutique strategy and marketing consultancy concentrating on the challenges of the medium sized manufacturing businesses that make up the backbone of our economy. The particular focus is on their strategic and marketing development. as well as the business and operational efficiency improvements necessary for day to day commercial survival. We not only give advice, we go down "into the weeds" to ensure and enable implementation.
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