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Keep it Positive by Sharing Information

by Beth on May 20th, 2010

Dr. Theresa Welbourne and her colleagues found some pretty unexpected results in a recent study they did on employee engagement.  Employees who reported the most positive attitudes toward their managers in 2008 had the lowest engagement scores in 2009.  What?  The researchers were quite surprised, so they took a closer look at the data.  It turns out that the companies where this effect was the strongest happened to be those that had suffered the most during the recession, having more layoffs, more negative events, etc.  So they concluded that “manager letdown syndrome” was responsible for the results.  Employees who had the most positive opinions of their managers were the most disappointed when things got ugly.  So the question is, “What does the manager do?”
Leading in hard times is not easy!  One positive step that leaders can take is to foster an environment of trust by being transparent and sharing information.  According to Quint Studer, author of Straight A Leadership: Alignment, Action, Accountability, companies with open, free-flowing information do much better in difficult economies.  Leaders should share both good and bad information with their employees.  The more open and honest they are, the more trust they will build.

When information is shared openly employees are more likely to understand why certain tough decisions have to be made.  If employees are aware of the financial situation their organization is facing they will realize that their company may not have a choice and cutbacks are necessary.  If cuts do have to be made, leaders should openly communicate how many are being made, whether they will be all at once or over time, and what steps are being taken to assure the security of employees who remain.  When this information is not communicated, rumors become rampant and trust is undermined.

Managers build positive relationships by sharing information regarding profits, costs, productivity, customers, and strategy with their employees.  The more transparent they are the more trusted they will be.  And the less likely they will fall into the trap of “manager letdown syndrome” when times are tough.  Things will still be hard, but employees will have a better understanding of what is going on and why certain decisions are made.

Does your company share information openly?  Do you build trust thought transparency?  Or do you feel uncomfortable sharing sensitive information with your team?  Let us know what you think!

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