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What's Your Plan?

Communicating When Things Go Wrong

By Judey Kalchik Published 3 years ago Updated 2 years ago 3 min read
What's Your Plan?
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

Murphy' Law is proved true all the time: 'Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.' Of course, we all try to avoid things going wrong as much as possible. That just makes sense.

It also makes sense to prepare for what you will do when there are the inevitable problems so you can move forward with the least amount of fuss and breakage. Communications must be part of that preparation.

That is especially true in the new working and social conditions brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. For many people, the daily face-to-face interactions of work have been disrupted. Zoom meetings hide important body language that acted as clues to understanding messages and deprive us of visual context that we absorb by watching other interact.

As people have had job disruptions and start new job careers it is becoming more commonplace for online onboarding and virtual teambuilding. We miss the micro-moments that bond a team during daily interactions and online meetings record self-aware discussions that miss the getting-to-know-you side chatter that builds not just familiarity but also trust. Those fragile bonds of trust can be irreparably damaged when things go wrong unless you have a plan and are are prepared to act quickly.

By Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Without clear explanations people will supply their own interpretation to the situation. Rumors are circulated and gaining traction become accepted as truth. Meaningless occurrences of the past are remembered and grow in significance, becoming portents of a crumbling and uncertain present. The most skeptical and vocal team members repeat their theories and answers and may emerge as leaders only by virtue of their willingness to speculate aloud or in print regardless of their accuracy.

This doesn’t need to happen. Take the time BEFORE there are problems to prepare a plan, write the messages, assign the roles, and identify the timing to carry out that plan so that you can direct the understanding and truth of a situation.

Preparing the Plan

1. Select the Team. Keep the team small; only include as many people as you must. One or two is fine for a family or small company.

2. Write the Messages. It’s best to stick to the truth when sharing a message. This is doubly important when everything hits the fan; don’t give anyone a reason to questions what you tell them. Take the time to write out the possible messages you will need. Save them to the cloud, in a shared drive, or locked in a safe. Make sure the team knows the location.

3. Assign the Roles. Who will be the face and/or the voice of the message? Who will call the meeting of the bigger group? Who will take questions? Who will follow up afterwards? Knowing the roles ahead of time allows the communications team to be calm even in a chaotic situation. A calm communications team will contribute to a calmer and more confident group.

4. Identify the timing of the communications. Be clear: when will communications begin? Is there a flashpoint of which to be aware? A critical failure that tips the actions into play? A dollar figure? Profit loss? Specific number of hours to elapse? Decide these triggers well before you will need them and avoid the paralyzing temptation to delay communicating that chaos can bring.

By Jen Theodore on Unsplash

It’s not just businesses that need to prepare for the worst before it happens, and it isn’t just the workplace that can crumble without clear and confident communications.

Parents, teachers, and students find themselves at odds as they navigate new ways to teach remotely, in pods, and amidst quarantine. Frustrations mount when students tune in to classes and the teacher hasn’t yet joined the session. Teachers need to find new ways to capture the focus of a wool-gathering student when they can no longer stand beside them in the classroom to ensure they comprehend the lesson. Parents cope with uneven email/voicemail/texts from schools announcing schedule changes and lockdowns.

Even the Vocal platform is not immune to the consequences of group speculation when something gets out of whack. When this article was written it had been several days since the content creator’s dashboards have updated the statistics for published articles. Speculation started to circulate before the end of the first day. Is the system overloaded? A coding issue? Sunspots? A short email or a banner on the dashboard pages would have shared the message I am sure is true: everything is just fine, the issue is being taken care of, everything is under control.


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About the Creator

Judey Kalchik

It's my time to find and use my voice.

Poetry, short stories, memories, and a lot of things I think and wish I'd known a long time ago.

You can also find me on Medium

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Comments (1)

  • Heather Hubler2 years ago

    I so appreciate clear communication! And being prepared! This was a great reminder to all :)

Judey Kalchik Written by Judey Kalchik

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