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Ask Dave

When in Doubt, Overshare

Mark is selling a business. He has a prospective buyer lined up. When should he tell the employees?

QUESTION: Mark in Oklahoma City is selling a business. He has a prospective buyer lined up. When should he tell the employees?

ANSWER: If you were in their shoes, when would you expect to know? If you worked for a guy for five years, and he’s going to sell his business, when would you feel betrayed if you didn’t know? That’s kind of how you need to process it. Ask your wife too. That’s a good way to get some input on things like this.

The error I always make on communication with my team is, when in doubt, I over communicate. I expect them to be adults. I trust them to be adults. Some of them are—most of them are and act that way. I remind them of that sometimes that I expect that of them. I just say, “Hey, I need to sit down and tell you what’s going on here. I feel like if I were in your shoes, I would want to know this at this stage”—whatever stage you decide that is—“and so I want to share this with you and tell you I appreciate you all these years. I appreciate all the things you’ve done. I’m doing my best as a part of this transition to secure you a position. I’ll be introducing you at the appropriate times to the appropriate parties. If it doesn’t go through, I’ll tell you about that. We’re just going to keep all our cards on the table here face up.” Be willing to share that. Be willing to discuss it. I do that with a lot of things around here when things are bad news or things are good news. I don’t overshare, I hope, but when in doubt, if I’m going to cross a line, it’s going to be on that side. I’m going to over communicate. I’m going to overshare with the team. People want to be treated with dignity, and being kept in the dark and fed manure—mushrooms get that, not people.