Internal Communication in times of crisis

In times of crisis leaders need to increase the frequency, quality and tone of their internal communication. Here are some helpful tips.

Assign Accountability

If everyone is responsible, progress will be made. Only with accountability, however, will objectives be achieved. This is true of any workplace activity or project and becomes mission critical during crises.

People need a leader to listen to and trust. This person will be accountable for delivering messages that are honest, hopeful and clear. These messages need to be framed to reduce anxiety, promote collaboration and foster a sense of confidence in the organizations’ approach to crisis response and recovery. The leader can be supported by others, but a singular voice will help ensure message consistency and shaping a sense of regularity in the chaos.

Increase message Clarity

Common pitfalls of internal communication are consistency and clarity. Crises require leaders to remain consistent with the key messages that will be helpful for the organization. Their audience are consuming information while experiencing adjustments to their personal and professional lives.

A chief challenge for leaders who aim to increase clarity is the uncertainty. Acknowledge the ambiguity and associated emotions and reinforce what you do know. You know what your objectives are. Repeat them. You know that there is accountability and leadership assigned to change requirements. Reassure them. You know that in ambiguity, there are opportunities to be creative. Encourage them.

Be clear about when people can expect to hear from leadership and through which channels. Digital exhaustion is taking a toll on many and focusing everyone to one channel for key messages will help ensure consistency and alignment. Ensure people have access to these channels.

Adding structure and clarity to ambiguity is an important skill for leaders to adopt and exercise in response to crisis.


Regular updates will help reinforce leadership messages and reassure people that someone is in control. It will help people develop autonomy and exercise informed judgement in their new way of working and can build trust in the organization. In communications follow this process: prepare people, inform people and remind people.

  • Prepare: Orient attention away from the noise and help them focus on you before the key messages are delivered; express why they should listen.
  • Inform: Deliver the key messages, keeping the messages that may seem repetitive from previous communications while also introducing new information.
  • Reinforce: Summarize what you have said and identify a channel for questions or clarifications.

This process may seem repetitive and may require more time, but it will help people to accept, process and consolidate the information they need to know to decrease ambiguity and to help them in their own adjustments.

Foster Compassionate Communication

People are experiencing this transition differently. Make no assumptions otherwise. Leaders need to be compassionate and empathetic in how they communicate difficult messages. Importantly, they need to encourage others to lift their thought process out of the day to day task and encourage them to be empathetic as well. Communicate something like:

“Remember, many of our colleagues are experiencing upset at this time. Some of your colleagues’ family members may work in an essential service or has lost their job. Some people have children without the regular support they depended on. Be empathetic and understanding in how you relate to people during this.”

In the same way to encourage empathy among team members, encourage them to empathize with you. Decisions made yesterday may not be relevant today. Everyone, including leaders, are receiving new information and operating under new constraints. Being open, transparent and compassionate will help others empathize with you, too.

Focus on the Future

This is an opportunity to reinforce the purpose behind the work people do in your organizations. Acknowledge the disruption and reassure them that that purpose is resilient. Because that purpose is resilient, so must the people and culture that contribute to it. Where peoples’ motivation may have decreased, remind them of the shared vision and values and why their work is important.

The suggestions in this article, too, are not new concepts and, once in practice should not be temporary. Compassion, clarity, accountability, and trust in leadership and organizations were relevant before the crisis and this relevance is now being reinforced and can become core attributes of your resilient culture moving forward.

Here are some helpful tips for managing internal communication during times of crises and uncertainty #leadership #communication #crisismanagement #culture


Photo by Volodymyr Hryshchenko on Unsplash