Communicating: Making Your Case to Employees

Whether you're the President of the United States making an address to the nation or a business manager writing an announcement to his employees, when you have news to deliver there's one key choice at the outset: should you state the decision first and then explain the reasoning or build up to your decision, making the case as you go along?

Deductive Structure

When you structure your announcement deductively, you tell the audience your news first and then go into the situation that led to the decision and reasoning behind it. Deductive announcements work best when:

  • There's No Alternative: Often managers will say "we had no choice" but in fact most employees are smart enough to figure out when that's not actually the case. Of course sometimes there is no choice if, for example, you're responding to a natural disaster or a legal matter.

  • The News is Already Expected: If rumors have already appeared in the news media or are widespread internally, you're essentially just confirming what's already circulating. No need to prolong the suspense. This can often be the case with a corporate merger or high-level personnel change.
  • Something to Cheer About: You've got good news? Best quarter in 10 years? Your biggest competitor throwing in the towel on a product line? Get everyone in the mood and then explain what it means. Just be sure there's no downside--if there is it may work better to explain as you go along, building up to the decision.
  • Inductive Structure

    Inductive structure lets you build up to what you have to say. It gives you a chance to gather support--or at least understanding--of the factors that led to your decision as you get ready to make the announcement. Consider making your case first when there's:

    • Bad News: Anything that can be interpreted as negatively impacting your company or its reputation should be framed in the best possible light and that's usually best accomplished by giving your audience an understanding of the external circumstances. Are foreign exchange rates hurting your business? Have changes in technology made a venture unprofitable? Focus on what's outside of your control that's led to your decision.

  • Layoffs or Benefit Cutbacks: Nothing is more sensitive to employees than job or salary-related news since, whether it directly affects them this time or not, they know it could have been them and might be the next time around. Even if they're not directly affected, employees will often know someone who is impacted.
  • Controversial Matters: :Employees are more informed than they've ever been and have the means to make their voices known much more than in the past. When there's an issue that divides opinion, building up to your decision in a way that acknowledges an understanding of each side's position can help with acceptance.
  • Got some good news to deliver: get it out right away and then explain all the supporting reasons. Bad news: build up to it slowly. And, as always when it comes to successful communications, think about your approach before you ever say a word.