The Impact of Uncertainty

Imagine your office site is moving but you aren’t sure exactly when. What’s your reaction? Well often it depends on your role in the office. I hear some people say ‘I’ll think about it when it’s sorted/decided’ and others who say ‘I want to know when we’re moving.’ What’s the difference in these two situations?

Often I’ve found that the ones who don’t pay attention to it are the leaders – the ones who are closest to the move. And the others are the team members who are further removed. At least this is the case in a couple of change scenarios I’m coaching people about.

It seems some leaders are reluctant to say anything until a date has been agreed for fear of saying something and then having to change it.  They don’t want to create false starts, they don’t want to confuse or mislead people with uncertain information. They’d just rather people keep focused on the work at hand and when they need to know they will be told.

The team members often think about it and talk about it or say ‘as usual they keep us in the dark.’ They fill the silence with worry, anxiety and in the worst case, negativity. When I talk to these people they crave information as uncertainty or silence usually festers into something less than positive.

A couple of the leaders I work with have figured out that uncertainty diminishes productivity even when the office move should be a positive change for people. So they’ve determined that in absence of a definitive date they are sharing the move process with their teams: telling them the steps that need to happen, what needs to be done in order to know the date and some of the key milestone dates leading to that move date. This has resulted in less gossiping about the ‘what ifs’ around the move and more engagement with team members about the positives of the move itself.

This is an example of focusing on the journey rather than the destination – what needs to happen between now and moving rather than just the date of the move as an end to itself.  What journey can you share with your teams to arrive at a destination in a collective and positive manner?