The last Edelman Trust Barometer made it clear. Lack of trust becomes reality almost all over the world. Does it change the way we shape internal communications? It should. How? Let me share with you a few ideas tested in Poland - a country with one of the lowest trust indexes in Europe.
Be the one who trusts
You’re the one to make the first step. The more people mistrust different organizations, the more your organization should trust them. In return, they will try to prove they deserve your trust.
Share the information about the organization. Do not over communicate rules, bans or penalties. Check the procedures and if you find them written with an assumption that people are cheating - change them.
Write between the lines
Write between the lines as your people will read between them. Where there’s not much trust, there are many conspiracy theories. And you must be prepared that whatever your message is, it will be used to justify them.
Make sure your content is crystal clear. When communicating emphasize what is changing as well as what changes not. Pay as much attention (or maybe even more) to the context – why is this message sent today, why by this person, why this way? Do not conceal truth or uneasy facts.
Be careful with recognition
When there is not enough trust, we are more eager to accept a negative feedback than a positive one. Recognition might seem suspicious. Are they trying to buy me? Are they trying to manipulate me?
Be careful with awards, contests or big events to recognize personal achievements, as they may be treated as pure propaganda. If you want your recognition to be credible, better go with immediate feedback in everyday life of your organization.
Do not be perfect – be authentic
Being over prepared might not be read as a sign of respect but as a sign of lying or hiding the truth at best. What people will believe is authenticity.
Look for semi-formal communication tools. Coffee corner might be more powerful than a town hall meeting, just as social media discussion might do better than traditional FAQ. Encourage your leaders to be authentic, ready to make mistakes and to admit I do not know.
Be prepared for an uprising, but never answer with fire
When people distrust organizations, they tend to believe they need to be fully armed before they begin negotiations with the employer. So, they come with petitions, threats and law paragraphs to discuss the length of lunch break. The biggest mistake you can make is to respond in the same manner.
Never react with anger or threat. Invite them to talk. Make this conversation personal – assign a person instead of saying that HR department will deal with the issue. Make this conversation public – show you have nothing to hide.
Deliver small promises
Majority of your employees can hardly check if your organization is working towards its strategic goals. But they can check if they have received an answer they were promised, got an access to the document they have requested and if they received them on time.
Deliver every single we’ll get back to you with this information promise.
Not trusting anyone is an exhausting life strategy. The more people distrust the system, the more will they look for small communities where they can relax and finally trust someone. They will turn to families, friends and groups they know. Finally, they might turn to organizations they work for. And it is our job in internal communications to show them that they are right to do so.
This blog post is also available in Polish. Click here.
About the author
Marzena Tajchman is an internal communications consultant and an author of polish blog on internal communications – Części Wspólne – Jak komunikować się w organizacji? (Intersections – How to communicate in organizations?) at www.czesciwspolne.pl.
Follow Marzena on LinkedIn or Facebook