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Manager‐employee communication during a crisis: the missing link

Alessandra Mazzei (Institute of Economics and Marketing, IULM University, Milan, Italy)
Silvia Ravazzani (Institute of Economics and Marketing, IULM University, Milan, Italy)

Corporate Communications: An International Journal

ISSN: 1356-3289

Article publication date: 9 August 2011

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to investigate the effectiveness of internal communication during a crisis by comparing how Italian companies communicated to employees during the 2008‐2009 global financial crisis and how employees interpreted these efforts.

Design/methodology/approach

The study used interviews with internal communication managers and employees. It also drew data from two focus groups and a survey involving internal communicators.

Findings

The results indicate a misalignment between what companies meant to communicate and what employees perceived. Companies planned excellent communication, made extensive use of official instruments and depicted the crisis as an opportunity, while employees complained about the lack of listening and about the clarity of messages, disliked hierarchical communication and accused their companies of opportunism.

Research limitations/implications

Further research is needed to explore the antecedents of the effective manager‐employee sensemaking process during a crisis.

Practical implications

To reduce misalignment, companies should strengthen trust relationships before a crisis occurs and should focus on open and continuous listening during a crisis.

Originality/value

The two perspectives of managers and employees used simultaneously offer a more comprehensive understanding of the complexity of internal communication during crises.

Keywords

Citation

Mazzei, A. and Ravazzani, S. (2011), "Manager‐employee communication during a crisis: the missing link", Corporate Communications: An International Journal, Vol. 16 No. 3, pp. 243-254. https://doi.org/10.1108/13563281111156899

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited