Sharing news is hard. Maybe the news isn’t good. What will your staff think? How will they react? Maybe the news is not bad, it’s just change… but people often freak out when they face change.
If you need to share news with your staff, I strongly suggest that you take 5 minutes by yourself to prepare.
Find a quiet spot and write a one page letter answering the question, “What is my hope for my staff?” Don’t send the letter. This letter is a way to figure out what your hope is for your staff when they receive this news. Use it to ground yourself in your intentions. Think beyond the initial reaction “I hope they won’t yell at me”, to your deeper hope, “I hope that my staff will find hope in the new direction”. Or “I hope that my staff will understand they are appreciated and their work is valuable”.
You may find that your hopes are a way to reframe your fears. You fear that when the staff find out that the program is being cut they will question whether or not their work mattered and if they are going to be ok. Your hopes would then center around the staff knowing that their work does matter even though it is being cut and feeling like they will be ok.
Based on your hopes, write down one sentence about what is the most important message you have to share. In the previous example, your message would center on how the staff’s work has been valuable and has mattered. You would then also want to give the staff clear and truthful information about how this will affect their jobs or lives so that they can make a plan. It can come across as pollyanna or shortsighted to just say, “We will be ok.” However, if you recognize that deep down that is what they need to hear, you can think about how you will show them that it will be ok. What data, reassurances, or kindness can you share and demonstrate that will help the staff feel that it will be ok?
In general in sharing news, it is important to think about:
- The message – What is your key takeaway message related to this news?
- The tone – What tone do you want to set that will show that you understand the impact of this news?
- The follow up – Everyone processes news in different ways and at different speeds. How can you make space for questions before, during, and after the meeting? Can you provide different formats for questions so that everyone feels comfortable asking them?
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