When information isn’t shared with employees, they tend to fill the gaps with their own ideas and assumptions, and these are often worst-case scenarios. Likewise, customers who don’t get necessary information like updates on repairs or shipping dates for example will fill the gaps with their assumptions, and, exactly like employees, their assumptions are often worst-case scenarios. This isn’t some fault in employees and customers it’s actually a natural human tendency having to do with our base survival instincts. When we don’t have accurate information, if we want to survive, it makes sense to assume the worst. Better to be alive when the worst doesn’t happen than dead because you assumed the best and were wrong.
Here’s how it works: Lack of information creates doubt which creates fear (not horror-movie fear, rather, the subtle subconscious kind) which creates discomfort which creates worst-case thinking.
Ultimately, lack of information subtly undermines and whittles away at trust, and it can happen unintentionally. Around the office, simple things like a closed office door, a vague reply, an unreturned greeting as you pass in the hallway, or a canceled meeting with no explanation, all can create worst-case scenario thinking. For customers, a long wait for a return call, no update on what’s happening with a repair, inexact time of arrival, all of these and more create worst-case scenario thinking.
You can easily prevent this problem though by proactively explaining things, sharing the whats, whys, and hows. Whether it’s with employees or customers, nothing beats timely, transparent honesty.
For example, if you’re a manager and there are changes coming, give your team a heads-up. They can start preparing and won’t be caught off guard. In addition, they will be able to downplay the rumor mill.
With customers, set expectations by giving them timelines and updates all along the way in the process of their order, repair, or project.
You are not protecting customers or employees by keeping them in the dark. People find out things on their own through research or rumor and then make multiple assumptions that are often worse than reality. The information gaps you may be leaving chip away at trust, your leadership, and your brand, both your personal brand and your company brand. So, in every interaction, take the opportunity to over communicate, explain, and share information.