How is “Deck the Halls” like employee communication? Read on . . .
Here’s an impossible challenge: Walk into a store in November that isn’t already decorated for Christmas, complete with fake pine garlands and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” on the audio system.
In fact, the holidays have seeped into October. One recent Halloween, on my way to a meeting in New York City, I ducked into a pharmacy to buy treats for my clients. No such luck; the store had already substituted red-and-green candy canes for the orange-and-black-packaged candy I was looking for.
Everyone knows why retailers take an early bird approach to making spirits bright: They want you to shop early and often. But the problem with this approach is that, by the time the actual holiday arrives, we’re sick of it. We’ve got tinnitus from too many silver bells, high blood sugar from too much pfeffernusse and tinsel blindness from all those shiny ornaments.
The too-soon syndrome not only occurs during the holidays, but in change communication as well. The well-meaning people who run companies and manage programs want to let employees know that something is coming.
So they send an email saying change is coming . . . next year. Or mention in a town hall that employees will have to work differently . . . eight months from now. Or share the details of an IT systems change . . . sometime in the near (or possibly not-so-near, if the project doesn’t go according to plan) future.
It's like putting up your Christmas tree in July. And it proves that it's entirely possible to over-communicate, especially when it comes to letting employees know about a change that they can’t act on for a while. It’s even possible to cause change fatigue before change actually occurs.
In short, when it comes to giving a heads up, don’t get ahead of yourself. Approach change communication like I approach Christmas. I actually wait until December to begin the season.
That's because "just in time" is the sweetest carol of all.