September 1, 2022

How to Break Big News to Employees at Your Manufacturing Company

by Mike O'Neill

It’s a big year for your manufacturing company and change is underway. Systems are improving and new challenges are on the horizon.

The time will come to announce changes and deliver big news to your employees. This can be a stressful process because you might not know the outcome. Figuring out how and what to say is a project in itself. You have to be ready for any reaction your employees might throw at you.

With years working with manufacturers, I’ll help you get into the right mindset for breaking news to your employees, prepare for the interaction, and how to make the best of the change.

I’ll also teach you what to do when conflict arises. Conflicts can happen when employees get big news dropped on them, but a strong and prepared workforce will ensure that conflicts are at a minimum and are handled by those within them rather than upper-level management.

Steps for Receiving a Positive Reaction from Big News


Prepare for the interaction

Before you announce the change, make sure you’re in the right mindset and you’ve figured out what you’re going to say. You don’t need a script, just an outline of the main points you’re going to make that cover the important things.

Next, determine what format you’re delivering the news in. Will you announce it via email or during a meeting? Adjust your outline to the method of delivery.

To check your effectiveness in communication, consider rehearsing the announcement with a trusted person. They can provide feedback on your presentation and raise the questions your employees may ask you so you can have an answer prepared.

Finally, leave your schedule open after the announcement. Set aside time for one-on-one conversations or additional meetings to get everyone on the same page.

Approach the situation with compassion and understanding

All too often, employees become discouraged by rigid, emotionless leaders. They can create an environment of tension and judgment. Employees come to work feeling wary of any changes because of their less-than-flexible bosses’ inability to handle them.

A compassionate leader fosters open communication and empathy. They remind the team that no one is perfect and that changes and conflicts will occur. And they also prepare their employees for these circumstances.

This sense of compassion is so important that studies have been done on its effectiveness. One study found that the caring way doctors treated their patients was more important than the conversation they had about their health. It even had a significant effect on the patient’s mental health.

The same applies to business. By using compassion, you show your employees that you care about them. And employees that are cared about perform better and handle changes better because they trust you.

When you approach difficult situations with an open mind, you’re also setting the standard for the rest of your employees. You are showing them how to manage interpersonal conflicts in the workplace. This is crucial as your employees are also responsible for handling situations with compassion as they interact with each other. 

To be a more compassionate leader, make sure to make time for your employees by:

  • Listening
  • Showing your gratitude for their hard work
  • Rewarding their accomplishments
  • Getting to know them
  • Encouraging them to succeed, and
  • Offering support

Doing these things more often creates a positive work environment that sets your employees up for success, no matter what changes may come.

Write your rationale

Why did you make this decision? Why is this change happening? These are the ultimate questions and are the first thing your employees are asking when you announce a change.

You need to give them an explanation. Employers who keep important decisions to themselves create an environment of employees who don’t understand you or your business goals. Your employees won’t trust you and they won’t have a clear idea of who they’re working for. 

When employees are informed of why changes occur, they can become vital components of an easy transition. Solutions pop up and people step up to face the challenge. Instead of being kept in the dark, they feel like important members of the team and perform at their best.

By explaining yourself, your employees will understand you better and have an easier time coming to terms with the change. 

Be extremely clear when you write your rationale. Don’t use any mixed messages or unclear language, instead focus on being clear and concise. This means avoiding wordiness and sticking to the point. Yes, you should explain your reasoning for the change, but you should also keep it simple, so your employees don’t get overwhelmed.

Lastly, when you explain your rationale, avoid sharing any negative feelings you may have about the decision or change. If you do, it’ll rub off on your employees and create or build tension surrounding the change. It’ll also undermine the credibility of the decision-makers. If you show uncertainty, your employees feed off it. The same goes for confidence.

Use news as a learning opportunity

Change is inevitable, so make the best of it. Guiding your employees towards the benefits of the new challenge creates a more cohesive team. Your employees will come to trust you and each other over time because you’ve successfully navigated changes time and time again.

You can learn a lot of things from change, especially in the workplace. When you deliver big news, include the learning opportunities that come with it.

For example, if you are announcing a change in management, talk about the benefits of switching up leaders, like the possibility for:

  • Renewed morale
  • Increased productivity
  • Improved communication, and
  • New solutions

New management brings new hope. Show them it’s an opportunity for a refresh. It presents the opportunity for employees to get to know the new leader and be receptive to the ideas the new manager brings to the mix.

Paint a big picture

When you turn the change into a learning opportunity, you’re pointing towards a “big picture” for your company. You’re shifting the perspective into the future instead of focusing on the uncomfortable changes now.

When you create a big picture of where your company is headed after this change, include your employees in it. Let them know how important they are to the company and how their cooperation in the face of change will help produce that big picture.

Make it a paint-by-numbers picture. List the steps you plan to take in response to the change. Include steps for your employees to take, too. 

Anything you can do to get your team involved in the process will make them important parts of your big picture. And when they are included in the big picture, they’ll feel the same motivation you do to succeed in the face of change.

Be clear, concise, and open

No matter what way you deliver the news, you have to use the right language to avoid confusion and conflict. The tone and style of your delivery will be a determining factor in how your employees respond to you. 

My other article Improving Your Communication Skills as a Leader explains the importance of good communication skills and how to get better at them and ultimately better at delivering news.

When you make a big announcement, use active language instead of passive to show your employees you’re handling the change well and staying ahead of the game.

Use phrases like 

  • “Going forward, management will do A, B, and C”
  • “The decision was made based on reasons 1, 2, and 3”
  • “The decision will result in X, Y, and Z”

These statements are clear, and concise, and leave less room for guessing. You can provide further clarification upon request, but don’t complicate things by getting too wordy. Keep it simple and concise, always. 

These announcements should be handled delicately, and too many words come off as desperate and harried. Skirting around the details and avoiding key points leaves your employees confused and wary of your credibility. 

So don’t leave any blanks. Maintain a strong front with easy-to-understand and active language that shows your team that you’re in control and you’ve covered all your bases.

Remember, compassion is key to maintaining good relationships with your team. Make sure it’s reflected throughout your language. While you should be concise and to the point, let your employees know you respect them and their opinions with active language. Avoid robotic and passive phrases that make your message seem careless.

If you’re unhappy about the news, don’t show it. Avoid letting your tone become negative or your posture sag. Stand tall, focus on the big picture, and be open to more communication. 

Your language reflects on your employees, regardless if it’s read or heard. You set the tone for the workplace attitude. Confident, direct language with your employees influences them to speak the same way to each other.

What Not to Do When Delivering News to Employees

When you deliver news, avoid doing the following things. They will distract and discourage your employees from working with you on this new challenge and undermine your authority as their leader.

  • Talking bad about or blaming another employee or leader
  • Focusing on the negative
  • Not taking responsibility for your actions
  • Sugar Coating or exaggerating statements
  • Leaving questions unanswered

What to Do When Conflict Arises

Conflict is inevitable, and isn’t always bad. It can arise when employees don’t react well to changes, but it can also be a learning experience. If you drop big news on your employees and they respond negatively, use it as an opportunity for personal and team growth.

As the leader, it is your responsibility to foster a work culture where conflict doesn’t happen–and when it does, it’s handled professionally. You shouldn’t be the one to solve every conflict, but you should be the one to provide the tools for your employees to do it on their own.

Conflict management workshops are a great way to increase cohesiveness in the team. They’ll learn the same tools for successfully handling conflict with each other. They can use these tools to resolve the issue with each other without having to consult you.

After all, it’s not always your responsibility to resolve conflict in the workplace. Great leaders spend less time resolving conflict because they’ve taught their team to handle it on their own. 

Some other tips for managing conflict are:

  • Making sure communications and policies are coherent
  • Encouraging employees to be self-accountable
  • Facing it head-on instead of avoiding it
  • Figuring out the cause of the conflict, including the emotions involved
  • Using different approaches for different conflicts

Look To The Future

As a leader, you shape the outlook for your company’s future. The energy you give off reaches every employee in your company, including your energy towards big changes or news.

Strong leaders make logical decisions, explain their rationale, and connect their decisions to a greater picture. They sweep their employees up in their determination to succeed. 

When it’s time to deliver big news, don’t forget to:

  • Prepare for the announcement
  • Be compassionate
  • Turn it into a learning experience
  • Paint a big picture
  • Use clear and concise language

When you deliver news armed with a rationale, plan of action, and optimistic outlook, your employees will likely respond positively. You may run into conflict, but your enthusiasm to make the most out of the change will infect your employees with the same spirit.

If you want to be a leader who fosters a conflict-free work culture, schedule a consultation with me to learn about my services. My strategies like conflict management training and executive coaching will help you develop into a great leader that can guide your team through any future challenge or change.

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