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Ledarskap i kriser – Att kommunicera framgångsrikt i tider av ovisshet

Thulin, Markus; Glinka, Kristoffer and Petersson, Magnus (2009)
Department of Service Management and Service Studies
Abstract
Leadership in crisis: How to communicate successfully when the future looks bleak When times of hardship and crisis are at the corporate doorstep, one of the most important assets to have is a working internal communications system. A fundamental problem for many organizations in times of crisis is to keep the communications system up and running smoothly. Leaders must not forget that it is their responsibility to transfer calmness, motivation and clear directives to the employees so that they keep their trust, commitment and loyalty to the organization. When times are troublesome and the economy is spiralling downwards, it is crucial to never lose your employees trust and motivation. The consequences are higher tacit costs and spread of... (More)
Leadership in crisis: How to communicate successfully when the future looks bleak When times of hardship and crisis are at the corporate doorstep, one of the most important assets to have is a working internal communications system. A fundamental problem for many organizations in times of crisis is to keep the communications system up and running smoothly. Leaders must not forget that it is their responsibility to transfer calmness, motivation and clear directives to the employees so that they keep their trust, commitment and loyalty to the organization. When times are troublesome and the economy is spiralling downwards, it is crucial to never lose your employees trust and motivation. The consequences are higher tacit costs and spread of negative emotions, such as fear, panic and confusion that will ultimately create even more costs in times when every penny counts. A successfully implemented system will instead minimize (or even avoid) large damage to the organization. This master’s thesis examines the internal communication and, more specifically, the role of a leader when communicating with his/her employees. The study was conducted in a government organization in a small municipality in Sweden. The largely industry-oriented town has been badly hit by the economic downturn of 2008-2009 and this has put a notable pressure on the local government. Likewise the national government of Sweden as a whole has also been hit by the crisis and this has prompted a tighter control on spending policy, affecting government aid to smaller municipalities. The additional pressure and workload for employees and the threat of possible layoffs in the organization present a good opportunity for examining the dynamics of the internal communications system and the leader’s role when communicating with their employees during a crisis. The purpose of this essay is to increase the understanding of how a leader should look upon the communicative interaction with his or her employees in a crisis-hit organization. Specifically, we will focus on how this will affect the communication between leaders and their employees. This will be done by applying three different perspectives on communication; communication as a tool, communication as social change and communication as a process. The primary aim is to show that each perspective separately presents limits when communicating but when combined can give greater benefits to the organisation. Note that we do not question the actual division of the perspectives. The methods used in this study are interviews and a large survey of the local government’s employees. We chose to do a survey to diversify and get a larger empirical perspective. This way, we also got a second opinion on the situation from employees. Conclusion We have shown that looking at communication from a single perspective can create limitations when communicating effectively in the organization. We have found, for instance, that using a single viewpoint when communicating with employees can create unwanted and destructive actions by both leaders and their employees. Furthermore, we also found that it created flaws in the communicative interaction between the leader and the employee. By applying all three perspectives together, instead of limiting oneself to just one or two, one could eliminate such problems. For example, to minimize confusion and incomprehension it is important to understand communication as a tool. It is important that leaders understand how the flow of information works and how to correctly distribute it. But it is also important to realize that communication creates action, often in unexpected ways. By doing so, one can then minimize the unwanted and destructive actions towards the organization. Lastly, communication must not be viewed as just information to be distributed. Employees must also understand what is written and how it relates to them. Unnecessary and unclear communication will only create problems down the road for organizations. An important aspect is therefore to make the information clear and understandable so that employees, to put it bluntly, “get the point”. We conclude that by using each perspective separately there are clear limits when communicating in a crisis. But by using each perspective together, leaders and organizations can utilize the benefits and synergy effects when communicating and interacting with their employees in a crisis-hit organization. This will hopefully enable leaders to communicate successfully when the future looks bleak. Keywords Business leadership, corporate management, human resource management, leadership, communication, internal communication, interpersonal communication, crisis, financial crisis, stress management, motivation, commitment, loyalty, staff, government, government administration, public administration, municipality. (Less)
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@misc{1436516,
  abstract     = {Leadership in crisis: How to communicate successfully when the future looks bleak When times of hardship and crisis are at the corporate doorstep, one of the most important assets to have is a working internal communications system. A fundamental problem for many organizations in times of crisis is to keep the communications system up and running smoothly. Leaders must not forget that it is their responsibility to transfer calmness, motivation and clear directives to the employees so that they keep their trust, commitment and loyalty to the organization. When times are troublesome and the economy is spiralling downwards, it is crucial to never lose your employees trust and motivation. The consequences are higher tacit costs and spread of negative emotions, such as fear, panic and confusion that will ultimately create even more costs in times when every penny counts. A successfully implemented system will instead minimize (or even avoid) large damage to the organization. This master’s thesis examines the internal communication and, more specifically, the role of a leader when communicating with his/her employees. The study was conducted in a government organization in a small municipality in Sweden. The largely industry-oriented town has been badly hit by the economic downturn of 2008-2009 and this has put a notable pressure on the local government. Likewise the national government of Sweden as a whole has also been hit by the crisis and this has prompted a tighter control on spending policy, affecting government aid to smaller municipalities. The additional pressure and workload for employees and the threat of possible layoffs in the organization present a good opportunity for examining the dynamics of the internal communications system and the leader’s role when communicating with their employees during a crisis. The purpose of this essay is to increase the understanding of how a leader should look upon the communicative interaction with his or her employees in a crisis-hit organization. Specifically, we will focus on how this will affect the communication between leaders and their employees. This will be done by applying three different perspectives on communication; communication as a tool, communication as social change and communication as a process. The primary aim is to show that each perspective separately presents limits when communicating but when combined can give greater benefits to the organisation. Note that we do not question the actual division of the perspectives. The methods used in this study are interviews and a large survey of the local government’s employees. We chose to do a survey to diversify and get a larger empirical perspective. This way, we also got a second opinion on the situation from employees. Conclusion We have shown that looking at communication from a single perspective can create limitations when communicating effectively in the organization. We have found, for instance, that using a single viewpoint when communicating with employees can create unwanted and destructive actions by both leaders and their employees. Furthermore, we also found that it created flaws in the communicative interaction between the leader and the employee. By applying all three perspectives together, instead of limiting oneself to just one or two, one could eliminate such problems. For example, to minimize confusion and incomprehension it is important to understand communication as a tool. It is important that leaders understand how the flow of information works and how to correctly distribute it. But it is also important to realize that communication creates action, often in unexpected ways. By doing so, one can then minimize the unwanted and destructive actions towards the organization. Lastly, communication must not be viewed as just information to be distributed. Employees must also understand what is written and how it relates to them. Unnecessary and unclear communication will only create problems down the road for organizations. An important aspect is therefore to make the information clear and understandable so that employees, to put it bluntly, “get the point”. We conclude that by using each perspective separately there are clear limits when communicating in a crisis. But by using each perspective together, leaders and organizations can utilize the benefits and synergy effects when communicating and interacting with their employees in a crisis-hit organization. This will hopefully enable leaders to communicate successfully when the future looks bleak. Keywords Business leadership, corporate management, human resource management, leadership, communication, internal communication, interpersonal communication, crisis, financial crisis, stress management, motivation, commitment, loyalty, staff, government, government administration, public administration, municipality.},
  author       = {Thulin, Markus and Glinka, Kristoffer and Petersson, Magnus},
  keyword      = {företagsledning,human resource management,ledarskap,kris,finanskris,intern kommunikation,interpersonell kommunikation,stresshantering,personal,motivation,lojalitet,engagemang,personalhantering,offentlig förvaltning,kommunal verksamhet,kommun,Management of enterprises,Företagsledning, management},
  language     = {swe},
  note         = {Student Paper},
  title        = {Ledarskap i kriser – Att kommunicera framgångsrikt i tider av ovisshet},
  year         = {2009},
}