Last week, user-generated news source Reddit experienced a pretty big hullabaloo after firing beloved talent director Victoria Taylor. The online community essentially went dark as moderators of nearly 300 subreddits revolted in response to the news.
Since, interim CEO Ellen Pao has issued a public apology, but that hasn’t stopped angry users and moderators from starting a Change.org petition calling for her resignation. As of 9:20 a.m. ET on July 7, the petition had more than 200,000 supporters.
While the story is still unfolding and people are angry about many things, one of the biggest issues seems to focus on the lack of communication between Reddit leadership and its large community of volunteer moderators. Pao has promised more open communication, but perhaps a bit too late.
The whole mess serves as a pretty powerful lesson, especially to first-time leaders. When you take the helm, whether you lead a small group or an entire organization, you undoubtedly will need to make some changes. And that can cause problems because even the smallest of changes can throw employees for a loop and cause confusion and anger.
While changes are absolutely inevitable, too many leaders and managers believe that they know what is right and that they don’t need to justify (or even explain) their decisions. If you fall in that category, you are making a big mistake.
You need your employees to initiate the changes. If you want them to support your decisions and actively work to ensure that your changes are a success, you better justify your reasons for making the changes in the first place. Explain why you are making the changes, talk about how those changes will benefit the team, organization, employees or business. Be honest about the challenges you expect, and talk openly about how employees will be affected. Let them share their feedback, concerns and ideas for making the changes successful.
If employees are informed and feel they have a voice in the matter, they will be more inclined to support your plans. As the Reddit situation tells us, if you leave them in the dark, they may resist, sabotage your plans or make your life a living nightmare.
Additionally, and this one is hard for many new managers, don’t make changes just because you have the authority to do so. You may want to throw your weight around a little and show everyone that you’re the boss, but if you make changes just to make changes, you will disrupt the team, hurt morale and lower productivity. Focus instead on making those changes that help the team and move the business forward and you will gain employees’ respect and support.
Jaimy Ford is a business writer and editor. She writes newsletters, training tools, eLearning programs and blogs that focus on professional development, leadership, productivity and more.