Yes, this sounds like an obvious one. The reality is that stress is easily abundant during a crisis and highly contagious. Employees will take cues from those they are communicating with, and the result is that their attitude may either improve the situation or make it worse. Keeping calm during a crisis can prevent the spread of confusion, misinformation and panic.
As plan administrators, it’s easy to generate a belief system around what participants should be doing with shares acquired from their equity awards. An example would be adopting a mindset that says that “participants should be holding their stock for the long term.” This could be due to certain tax benefits achieved from holding long, or a goal to create employee shareholders. As a result, we may be inclined to withhold certain informational resources that contradict our general belief about what participants should be doing with their company stock.
Knowing where to source timely and relevant resources is an essential component of crisis management. People want information, and fast. The line in a communication that says “we should have more information available soon” likely won’t sit well with anxious participants. They want information NOW.
Think of a time when you felt panicked…about anything. Maybe there was a health issue that needed a doctor’s assessment. Perhaps you needed to make a bank transaction immediately. Whatever the scenario, you most likely wanted and needed immediate service. In fact, if you got that real-time service, I’m guessing that helped greatly in calming things down.
While the priority in any crisis is dealing with the issue at hand, it’s important to not forget about the future. The crisis will end. Things will move on. Crisis recovery will likely be better facilitated when contemplating the future state has not been completely overlooked. If awards/grants are up in the air because of the many present unknowns, it’s okay to say that to participants. Does the company need to slow down decision making for a while? Talking about the knowns and the unknowns of what’s next provides transparency and lets participants know that the company believes there is a future. It also communicates that the company is aware of the current uncertainties and that they will be addressed at some point.
Participant Resources for Tax Season
The volume of participant inquiries can ebb and flow, but perhaps one of the most predictable times of year for stock plan related questions (and guidance needs) is tax season.
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