The human mind needs a consistent and continuous experience of the world to stay healthy. So important is this need for "gestalt" that the brain has a built-in mechanism for filling in any gaps in our experience of the world. If we lack information or continuity in our experience of the world we use our imagination to smooth over the gaps and create the details we need to stay sane.
Children begin life with a nearly total lack of information with which to interpret and navigate the world, so they rely very heavily on their imaginations. As their brains self-program with experiential information about the world, their brains rely less and less on their imaginations to get through the day. Eventually they will "mature" and put most of their toys away in favor of a more or less real-time experience of the world.
Even after they've grown most people still make use of their imaginations for entertainment, invention, and planning. Einstein reportedly said that imagination is more important than intelligence. It was Einstein's highly effective use of his own imagination that launched the modern scientific era.
So if your organization is undergoing a crisis (rapid and unplanned change) or planned organizational change, and you haven't communicated enough information to them, then they will necessarily engage their imaginations. Some folks will have imaginations that create a positive view of the future and some will create a negative view of the future. These imagined facts will take on a life of their own, and if repeated enough will become fact--self fulfilling prophecy.
Keep in mind that the use of imagination to fill in gaps in our understanding and knowledge is as human as breathing. Their imaginations will rule the day in rumors and gossip matter how much you threaten, scold, ridicule or berate your employees. Please keep in mind that they are not being naughty or evil, they are being human.
The ONLY remedy is to over-communicate facts, and if you don't have facts then clearly communicate that fact. Here is how SharePoint can help:
- Set up a SharePoint site on the crisis or change topic your organization is currently facing.
- Post announcements that spell out relevant events.
- Have a senior executive blog about the issues, concerns and highlights of the change event
- Put as many documents as possible into the library on the site
- Set up a discussion board in which people can discuss and debate their concerns
- (One of My Favorites) - Put up a discussion board called "Rumor Central" and have people post any rumors or gossip they hear about the crisis into this list. Most imaginary rumors and fears sound pretty funny when they are written down in broad daylight.
But no matter what, remember that if you don't supply your employees with enough information they will engage their imaginations, guaranteed. The only way out is to over-communicate.