Communicating During a Crisis: What’s Too Much?

Is it possible to communicate too much during a crisis? Let’s dig into that question a bit.

During a crisis, emotions tend to run higher than normal, for everyone. And the default setting for most people during such a period is to hyper communicate. The common wisdom is that “more information is better” during a crisis. In general, I believe that this is absolutely true. But all good behaviors can be overdone and eventually become bad behaviors. So too, with communication.

So what should be the limits on communication during a crisis? The following things seem very clear to me:

  1. Don’t create an emotional roller coaster. In a rapidly changing environment, constant updates can be highly distracting and lead to heightened emotion. “We are in trouble… no, I think we will be OK… I was right the first time, the numbers are bad… no, they aren’t as bad as I thought they were…” You have to constantly balance being transparent, with being SO transparent that you are taking your team on an emotional roller coaster. 
  2. If there is no benefit, keep it to yourself. In other words, if the piece of information will just add more fear and anxiety, without any benefit to the individual or the organization, think twice before sharing it. Of course, if the information is critical and relevant, it should be shared. But if it is extraneous, think twice before you share it.
  3. Avoid gossip. If emotions are already high, stories or gossip about how bad things really are will serve no purpose. Avoid the human tendency to bond over random pieces of information.
  4. Keep (most) of your emotions to yourself. It is OK to be human. But the people you lead will be looking to you for some sense of how to feel. And if it seems like your emotions are overwhelming you, then their emotions are more likely to overwhelm them. Set a tone, of confidence, conviction, whatever is called for. 
  5. Don’t make your plans too grand. When things are in crisis, the best messaging and the best plans are usually the ones that focus on the most immediate needs, the most important steps. When your organization is knocked back by recession or bad results, that is probably not the time to lay out a grand ten-year vision for the organization. Your people will care more about tomorrow and the next few steps. Keep your communication there.

As always, I welcome your comments or edits. You can leave them here, or email directly at

Better days ahead…

Does your team:
– Take too long to make decision?
– Fail to ask for what it wants or needs from you?
– Make things too complicated?
– Deliver unconvincing or disorganized presentations?
– Have new hires who are unprepared to communicate in the workplace?

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Dean Brenner

A book about change

The Latimer Group’s CEO Dean Brenner is a noted keynote speaker and author on the subject of persuasive communication. He has written three books, including Persuaded, in which he details how communication can transform organizations into highly effective, creative, transparent environments that succeed at every level.