Communications During the Coronavirus Crisis

In times of crisis, leaders are often faced with questions they don’t know how to answer. This problem is especially acute in the case of the covid-19 pandemic, a crisis that leaders couldn’t have anticipated, yet are now expected to have all the answers and chart a steady course.

Gina Kim
September 2, 2020

How leaders handle communications at this time is critical, and can matter just as much, if not more than the actual message delivered. Sometimes you’ll get it right, sometimes you’ll get it wrong, but if you err on the side of frequent and open communications, employees will value your transparency and trust you have the right intentions. 

Here are 6 rules of thumb for communicating during today’s crisis: 

Rule 1 - Act with empathy:

Employees are under enormous stress - stress about their health, changing family dynamics and pressures, financial security, the total upheaval of their lives. This crisis will affect everyone differently. Make time and space to listen, act with empathy, and address each individual’s concerns and questions.

Rule 2 - Be transparent:

Be clear about what you know, don’t know, and what steps you’re taking to learn more. Transparency is the ultimate expression of empathy, genuine concern, and good faith. 

Rule 3 - Keep people focused on an achievable plan:

Be honest about what is achievable in the coming weeks and months. Revisit targets and timelines, revising them if necessary. 

Rule 4 - Communicate frequently:

Shorten communication cycles to keep employees feeling connected and in the loop, and to demonstrate that you're following the situation and adjusting your response as needed. Lengthy periods of silence from leadership will only serve to fuel your team’s anxieties and fears. 

Rule 5 - Be vulnerable:

Your team will be more willing to be open about their feelings and worries if you also share how you’re coping and feeling. This isn’t about painting a rosy picture, but being real about what’s hard for you right now and accepting empathy from others.

Rule 6 - Show bounded optimism:

During a crisis, if leaders display excessive confidence in spite of the obvious situation, they lose credibility. It’s far more effective to project confidence that the organization and your team will find a way through this situation. Bounded optimism can have a powerful effect on your team, inspiring them to support the company’s recovery together, as a team.

We know this is difficult. 

In times of crisis, it is challenging for leaders to take a step back and understand each and everyone’s feelings and emotions. But how you communicate today will have a lasting impact on your team’s commitment to and trust in both you and your company.  

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