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In this climate, your employees’ fears aren’t trivial

In today’s economy, your staff will have so many questions both about themselves and your company.

Now, more than ever, your answers to their questions can have a huge impact on the staff morale. Anything you say to one employee is going to be repeated over and over again to other employees.

It is so important not to treat anything that your staff asks you as trivial or unimportant. Right now your staff has so many fears about their job and the well being of their families that you have to be super cautious as to how you answer their questions.

The answer to any staff’s question about their well being should always be couched in a matter to make them feel empowered.

Always consider how the answer will be interpreted and whether it will improve staff morale.

If a staff member asks if they should be improving their skills to make themselves more valuable to the company, a good answer would be that it is always good to improve your skills.

A terrible answer would be that it is not going to make any difference how much training they gain. This answer just destroys hope and motivation.

Staff will question the health of the company or their job security. Claiming a lack of information is not a glib response that will perpetuate rumors and innuendos. It also won’t make the question go away.

A better approach: Promise to share any information with your employees as soon as you receive it.

In my opinion, it is never OK to lie to staff. That doesn’t mean providing full disclosure of all you know.

For example, if a staff member asks if the company is planning layoffs, and you know they are, an appropriate response might be that layoffs are always a likelihood to insure the survival of the firm.

It is paramount that you couch each answer about the health of the company and the welfare of your employees in a framework that empowers them and your company.

Jerry Osteryoung, a professor of finance at Florida State University, can be reached by e-mail at or by phone at (850) 644-3372.