From an early age, everyone develops a need to know how we are doing. It begins with looking to our parents for approval, continues into grade school with happy/sad faces and grades, and even comes into play when we are learning to drive. For example, when you were a youngster and an adult offered to let you "drive" the car from the passenger seat by taking the wheel, you knew and trusted that they would steer you back on course when the vehicle began to veer to either side of the road. You always knew how you were doing.
Now equally important, with the rapid global spread of coronavirus, I suggest organizations remember this need to know how we are doing by checking in every day with their employees. The best way to do that is to practice transparent communication. Sure, some information is confidential, and a leader may not be at liberty to go into detail with team members about everything. However, employees usually want to hear directly from their leader about how the company is doing and how the company competes in the marketplace. This is true even during normal operations but becomes vital in times of global crises like the one we are living through right now.
If a leader chooses not to communicate effectively, employees are susceptible to rumors and misinformation from cynical employees. Sadly, there are always a few team members in every organization who spread their opinion about the state of the company in the hopes of stoking fear and anxiety among their co-workers. I think we can all agree that likely this will not make many employees feel secure, especially in our current climate.
I know of one organization where a memo was posted by the time clock, notifying workers that the company would be closing for one day due to a shortage of work. Within two hours, rumors were flying around the organization that the company would be having massive layoffs, closing facilities, and eventually filing for bankruptcy, causing employees to worry about their livelihood. None of this happened. Had leaders been more proactive in communicating their message and anticipating potential employee reactions and responses, they would have saved their employees' plenty of grief and anxiety. The workers deserved better from their leadership.
Think back to your younger years. Did you ever hear a sibling or a classmate say, “I know something you don’t know!” Do you remember how it felt to know that you were on the outside? Leaders, aside from those rare occasions when information must be kept confidential, share what you know about the company’s situation and let the employees decide what they do with the information. Otherwise, those handfuls of cynical employees will have free reign to groom insecure employees with rumors, leading your otherwise trustworthy employees to do things detrimental to your organization, like finding a job elsewhere. Employees like and deserve to hear from their leader because information from the top carries more weight than the irresponsible opinions spread by cynical employees.