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The Art of over-communication

"Over-communicate. It's better to tell someone something they already know than to not tell them something they needed to hear" - Alex Irvine

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Healthy Performance Culture
13 February 2024
Greg Robinson - Manager
5 minutes
Over-communication - is there a way to do it well?
"Over-communicate. It's better to tell someone something they already know than to not tell them something they needed to hear" - Alex Irvine

Now, on its surface, this quote seems logical. There is a risk of losing important information or momentum during organisational change processes. However, it's important to distinguish classic haphazard over-communication from deliberately repetitive; prioritised, and targeted communication. The first approach is a surefire way to undermine your change initiative. The second will set you on the path to success.


The pitfalls and tells of classic over-communication

You've experienced this scenario. It's crisis mode and the comms go wild. Everyone is copied into everything. Updates are rampant. Information is inconsistent or worse, contradictory. Confusion reigns.

This type of over-communication is symptomatic of systemic communication illnesses. In an attempt to suddenly over-compensate for previous failings, some organisations will shift into top gear and flood their people with too much, too often.

There is no need to keep everyone "in the loop" on everything. Many leaders do this because they are fearful of the repercussions of leaving someone out. But over-communication risks misinformation and can overwhelm the audience at a time when they need clarity, focus and as much certainty as possible. Another risk is disconnection - people can start to tune out and disengage.

Keeping your teams in the know and on track by communicating openly, frequently, and clearly is one thing, but over-communicating risks a loss of trust and confidence in leaders' understanding of challenges or issues, and their capacity to navigate through them.


The risk of under-communicating

The opposite also holds true. A surprise branch restructure? Sudden leadership changes? A new policy snuck in overnight? What else have you learned around the water cooler?

Under-communicating organisational changes funnily enough also undermines trust and confidence amongst your teams. Withholding information sends a signal to staff that their equities or perspectives aren't important. Last-minute releases without prior warning or consultation smacks of one-way dictation rather than constructive dialogue.

Over time, under-communication erodes confidence in leadership and their capacity to steer the course of change with empathy, and in alignment with organisation's strategy.


'Over-communicating' well

If both too little and too much communication raises the risk of undermining the success of your change, how can you strike the right balance?

The difference between the two can be subtle.

Change is an inevitable part of any organisation's growth and success. However, implementing change can be challenging, and it requires planned, targeted, and tailored communication.

During times of change, clarity of focus and direction are paramount. Explaining why changes are necessary can help people better understand the context and the purpose.

Consideration should be given to your organisation's unique culture. How do people prefer to receive information? This probably varies between branches or teams. Who's the best messenger? Which channel has the highest rates of engagement, reach and impact? These factors matter because they help ensure the right information reaches the right people, in the best way, at the right time. And this magic combination will be different for every organisation.


The Change Communication mindset

The mindset of 'At least if we've told everyone everything, then we've done our job' needs to be replaced by 'we told the right people what they needed to know at the right time, in the right way'.

Holding onto a ''communicate at any cost' mentality raises the risk of your messaging becoming white noise. Holding onto the perception that information is power is equally damaging for organisational trust and the likelihood of successful change implementation.

People at all levels within an organisation should understand how changes impact them. Bringing everyone together on the change journey can be difficult, but this becomes less daunting when you communicate the right way.

Here at Synergy Group, we're experts in the field of change management and strategic communication. Navigating a challenging organisation transformation? Reach out for a chat.

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