The B word…

Lots of noise but why the IC silence on Brexit?


Nov 23, 2018 | Feature

Let’s talk about Brexit. Ok, we know, we’re all fed up to the back teeth with Brexit. But why is it no one is really talking to their people about it?

This year started with a flurry of fresh strategic messaging to colleagues, helping them understand the direction the business is heading and their part in achieving the end goal. Now, as the culmination of those endless Brexit negotiations, plus the resulting political shenanigans, approaches it’s probably a good time to start the conversation with colleagues.

However, we’ve noticed – having spoken to many IC people – that Brexit isn’t featuring much, if at all. That may well be because, as yet, there’s not a lot to say (until we get to a deal). Yet, we know companies are beavering away in the background preparing for all scenarios. Sometimes silence is golden, but we also know, silence can be filled with doubt, suspicion and rumour. To us it seems a bit odd that there’s an internal radio silence while Brexit is all over our media and is a regular part of everyday conversations. 

To mix metaphors, continually brushing the proverbial ‘elephant in the room’ under the carpet might become a little tougher. Especially as the one thing that affects us all is job security. With that in mind, are companies not at least obliged to communicate their business position to their people, even if it’s simply a case of ‘keep calm and carry on’?

The trouble is none of us know what to expect come 11pm on 29 March 2019. We’ll find out more after this weekend perhaps. We know the lack of certainty makes answering the Brexit question tricky. From an external point of view it’s a highly charged and political situation, but it shouldn’t excuse organisations from acknowledging it internally. Not saying, or barely saying, anything could well be undermining trust, fuelling the rumour mill with questions: “What’s my company planning? Why won’t they tell me? Something must be up!”

Our view is that companies don’t have to reveal everything, but perhaps they should at least start a conversation and try and answer some of the pressing questions, namely..

  • ‘How will the possible Brexit scenarios affect me and the business?’
  • ‘Has the business planned for all scenarios?’
  • ‘Is my job at risk?’
  • ‘Will our strategy change?’
  • ‘When will we be told, and know, more?’

All this convinces us that businesses need to update their people and strategy comms, but in doing so, they need to be a bit braver. Ensure Brexit features, even if there isn’t absolute certainty (when is there?). Finally, reassure your people that plans are in place, and, colleagues feature at the top of all those plans. Only then will we all be prepared for what lies ahead.

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