How you handle gossip makes the difference between the gossip controlling you — or you controlling it.
Despite knowing that the only thing constant is change, anything new is often scary. Thus, it becomes the root of gossip. Uncertainty is even more unsettling.
Recently, senior executives of a global company were quietly exploring options to streamline its org chart to keep up with evolving markets.
Should it break down barriers between division silos, which had once made sense but no longer do? Should it keep the silos but move everyone into industry-focused specialties (ending an era of Jacks of All Trades but creating a depth of expertise to justify the big bucks they charge)?
In one grand swing, the company would completely alter the way it operates. Is that smart and bold? Or risky and foolish?
Whatever path it takes, the repercussions would be massive.
But (surprise!) secrets don’t stay secret. You know the drill: A partner mentions the discussions to a manager. A junior-level person hears about them during a late-night team dinner. Soon all the interns are abuzz.
It’s like the old game telephone that kids play in school, whispering from one student to the next. The message that ultimately emerges from the last student bears no resemblance to the original.
When you’re looking to refresh the way you do business, you must control the message. If you keep things behind closed doors, people fill the vacuum with what they speculate may be happening and what they think should happen.
Think about how your changes might affect your different audiences — employees, vendors, clients, etc. No matter how small you think the change is, consider how it’s perceived.
What should you tell them? When? In what forum? All at once? In batches?
Do you solicit comments and suggestions — or simply inform them of your decision?
Who should deliver the message — the CEO to the entire company, or key executives to their staff? Either way, you must ensure that the message is consistent.
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