While leadership in many businesses is communicating openly with employees during COVID-19, there are indications that employees are not necessarily satisfied with the messages being conveyed. A mere 53 percent rated messaging as “useful” while 11 percent said they were “not very satisfied” or “not satisfied at all with it.” (1)

When communication falters, organizations suffer. The importance of open, streamlined communication increases substantially during times of crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic has illustrated the powerful effect that messaging has on employee morale and productivity.

How can companies ensure their internal communication is up to the challenge, now and in the future?

Remain Open and Transparent 

It may sound counter-intuitive, but employees do not want the harsh truth coated in sugar during times of crisis. Handling staff with kid gloves to provide comfort may be the knee-jerk reaction reached by many leaders. However, by leaving staff in the dark, management will make them feel unprepared and that they are not a valued.

On the other hand, practicing transparency conveys the message that employees are vital to the success of the company, that management respects them, and that they will never be caught off guard when it comes to crises.

For example:  In a candid video, instead of burying the truth Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson shared the negative way the pandemic impacted business and the economic losses that had occurred as a result of the many travel and government mandated shutdowns. (2) By being open and honest in his video message, Sorenson showed employees (as well as other stakeholders) they could rely on leadership to be truthful with them.

Stay Calm 

Employees look to leadership for their cues on how to handle situations. If management is visibly panicked or stressed out, staff will pick up on it and respond the same manner. Portraying fear or anxiety about a crisis will erode employees’ confidence in their ability to work and lead the business through turbulent times.

There is nothing wrong with management letting employees know they might currently be uncertain about next steps or that they understand why staff members are scared. This demonstrates leaders’ humanity. The trick is to do so while maintaining a calm and confident demeanor.

Communicate Frequently 

In the absence of regular communication, employees will exhibit frustration and anger, as well as will have anxiety and worry about what may be coming next. Management can head this off by communicating frequently with them about developments in the situation and the measures they are taking to overcome associated challenges. Providing information, regardless of whether it is positive or negative, will help stem the tide of damaging assumptions. Remember, a single rumor can be extremely damaging.  Stop it in its tracks before it even gets started by being the first to approach concerns, issues and challenges as well as ways the company is addressing the crisis at hand. 

Possessing a leadership title does not automatically make someone a leader. When unnerving circumstances occur, employees want to know they can count on management. Standing tall and taking a self-assured, transparent stance demonstrates an ability to carry the business through tough times.

The unprecedented nature of COVID-19 has underscored the need for organizations to get their communication plan in order. By following the tips outlined in this article, leadership will fortify their business to withstand any crisis it may face.

Uncertain times call for creative thinking.  Contact Gavel International to be inspired with solutions that connect and engage your people. 



1 https://orangefiery.com/uploads/Orangefiery_COVID19_Leadership_Communications_Research_040320.pdf


Jim Bozzelli