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There may be lots of uncertainty surrounding the Brexit issue, but communication is still essential. That’s the verdict of Cathy Brown, executive director at Engage For Success.

“It’s an obvious thing really but you need to communicate – even when there’s nothing to say,” she stresses. “Be honest about the fact that, as an organisation, you aren’t entirely certain what’s going to happen either.
“Tell people what you can tell them, and tell them what you don’t know. If you don’t…they’ll make up their own stories.
“You need to build up a stronger feeling of being together, so it’s a good time to concentrate on the organisation’s values – restate them and tell everyone ‘This is how we operate regardless’.”
Cathy’s specific tips include:

Be visible

“One of the huge issues around Government after the Brexit was that there was no visible leadership,” she says. “I personally found that really difficult and it can happen in the same way in an organisation, which is why leaders need to be visible saying ‘This is who we are and what we stand for’.
“Managers will bear the brunt of any anxiety. Employees look to their managers to provide clarification and direction – or at least support.
“So, you need as much open communication as possible. Maybe it’s a really good opportunity to look at the training you give managers. Do you train them to help people under stress? You can use this as an opportunity to look at the longer term as well as the short term.”

Trust within the organisation/employee voice

“Are you allowing employees to voice how they feel or offer ideas – and, if so, do they feel safe doing that?” asks Cathy. “Do your processes work to allow that even if it’s negative? People need to get their feelings off their chests that they’re worried. Getting negative thoughts out can be useful.
“But you have to show people how to behave. Hostility in the workplace is hard to accept. We have a perceived divide – we think of work and home as separate, but they aren’t at all.
“People will feel frustrated if they can’t let their feelings out. But it comes down to the same way you’d manage people under any circumstance. You get big divides over things like football when passions run high and you have to walk a fine line between letting people vent their feelings and saying behave like grown-ups.
“We’re all human beings, we’re all here in the same company at work. It’s good to find things that people have in common and bring them together.”

Future change

“I voted Remain and I’m not happy about the Leave vote,” she says candidly. “But I accept what’s happened and we need to deal with things the way they are – but I can still campaign for how I want the Brexit deal to look or for reform in the future. Acknowledging that the vote went against me doesn’t leave me powerless, I can still work to change things.”
Cathy concludes: “The feeling coming through more than anything is uncertainty. People are simply unsure what Brexit means.
“From our point of view, although it’s obviously a wide-ranging fundamental change, it’s no different to anything else that puts organisations into a state of uncertainty.
“This is one of many, many things that cause uncertainty that organisations have to deal with.”
Check out the Engage For Success blog on Brexit
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