Communicating a hard message

Part Two

Avatar - Dean

Dean is about to tell his team that they are going to be re-structured.

After the recent merger, it has become clear that many of the team members don’t have enough work to keep them busy – there are teams in other locations that do similar functions.

Dean is new to an international role, so he comes to you for advice. You talk him through some of the learning from a recent course on cross - cultural communication and he agrees to take it on board.

Dean would have preferred to have the meeting in person, but he is concerned that he will take them away from their personal support networks as they receive potentially bad news, so he decides to do the meeting online instead.

He sends out an agenda, which warns them that he will be addressing the recent rumors about possible redundancies and discussing the team’s future.

He writes that the meeting will last for 15 minutes, but that he’ll leave plenty of time afterwards for any questions, but stresses that everyone should prioritize this meeting. 

He apologizes to those in China – it was not possible to get the meeting in to a convenient time for them, but he’s made it as early as possible.

In the meeting, he doesn’t use slides, but speaks on camera. He starts by saying that unfortunately, the company will be looking to make some cost savings that this will impact this team. He speaks slowly, leaving pauses and invites comments or questions after each main point.

He then outlines some of the reasons for the restructure – the overlap in functions, an historical underinvestment in keeping technical skills up to date and some broken processes.

He stresses that this is not the fault of this team and that he is proud of them, but the outcome is that the team will be disbanded. There are nine positions available for the 17 people in the team. He mentions that the HR team will be in touch to give information on the voluntary severance packages and about the selection process for those who wish to stay.  

Dean provides a list of numbers and emails for people who can give emotional support as well as advice on career development.

He finishes the meeting by saying that he has cleared his schedule for the rest of the day and if anyone wants to talk to him one-to-one, they should do so. For those in different time zones, he’ll be available till late that evening and start work early the next morning as well.

Although he invites questions, there are none at this stage – or rather, people are too shocked to ask them.

How has Dean improved this announcement? Are there any further suggestions you can make?