Every change or crisis comms text you’ll ever read will declare, somewhere within its sage advice, “never speculate”. It’s one of the fundamental tenets when dealing with the natural inclination to make up for an absence of facts: don’t make a rod for your own back.
There will be lots of internal communicators in UK-based companies fighting the impulse to give some reassurance to employees over Brexit right now.
There is so much uncertainty, and the political situation is changing so quickly, that firm facts are hard to discern. However, the desire to reassure employees over the future for the company, and the prospects for EU nationals in the workforce, must be growing every day. When nothing is clear, it’s hard to build confidence. But the need to do so remains.
In such circumstances there is a tendency to distil concrete and discrete scenarios: to say if x happens, it will mean y and we’ll do z. But that means hoping the sands don’t shift any further in the coming days (let alone weeks): routes that seem likely today could easily be ruled out tomorrow in the current febrile environment. Make one wrong prediction, in a bid to address uncertainty, and the company’s credibility as a source of reassurance will be shot.
Far better, in the short term, to emphasise that the company is zealously monitoring the situation and planning for many different scenarios. To emphasise that robust scenario planning means it has a whole toolkit from which it will deploy appropriate measures when the time is right.
In other words, acknowledge the uncertainties, don’t seek the resolve them. Emphasise that the organisation is ready for anything and prepared to act. Confirm the company’s commitment to share news and provide clarity as soon as it can. This might not immediately bring the certainty employees crave – and that communicators want to give – but it will help to maintain the credibility of communications and mean there’s more trust in the well when the situation becomes clearer.