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Should you lie to your staff?

Walk a fine line when discussing delicate issues

by on
in Leaders & Managers,Office Management,Workplace Communication

You’re often privy to confidential information like impending layoffs or a corporate merger. As much as you’d like to tell your employees, you can’t. You must keep quiet until final decisions are made.

This can get tough when staffers test you. Like aggressive reporters, they may probe for clues or try to trap you into admitting what’s going on. Here’s how to handle such situations without revealing too much:

Prepare uniform answers. If employees hear rumors of big news, they may ask you dozens of variations of the same question: What’s going to happen? Rather than think up a new answer each time, work with other managers on a consistent response. Make sure employees hear it every time, regardless of whom they approach. Example: “If and when we have any news to announce, we will let you know.”

While you may feel guilty hiding behind this response, it’s better than improvising each time—and risking saying too much. And the more you repeat it, the sooner you’ll shut down inquiries.

Drop hints. In some cases, you can indirectly guide an employee without divulging secrets. How? Show sensitivity to a worker’s plight.

Example: You know layoffs are planned soon. A supervisor who’s slated to be let go tells you she’s job-hunting. One day, she walks into your office with a letter in her hand and a serious look on her face.

You stand and say, “If you’re about to resign, don’t. Not now. Give it 72 hours.” Through your supportive body language, you can send a message that you’re in the employee’s corner. Then, when that person is laid off a few days later, she gets a severance package that she would not have received had she quit the firm.

Release key facts. Get your higherups to share relevant data with all employees. That way, at least everyone can see what information the top brass will base its decisions on.

Note: If you work at a public company and it’s involved in a merger, securities regulations such as insider trading laws dictate the release of news.

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