The way to soothe those anxieties - and to get people to embrace change - is to choose words that allay those concerns. "The manager's job is to balance their compelling vision with words that are soothing and comfortable, and that enable the employee to understand his or her role inside the larger change," says Patricia Riley, director and a communication professor at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Southern California.
The language you choose - whether in a spoken presentation or written in a document or e-mail - must convey that you respect employees' concerns and consider them a vital part of the initiative's success. Even the use of "I" rather than "we" can be disastrous. "People will listen and really pick up on little things like [that]," says Steve Axley, who teaches organizational behavior at Western Illinois University. "It really offers an important little window into whether the manager thinks individualistically or more collectively."
Metaphors are especially useful in communicating big and small aspects of change, Axley says. But they should be used carefully. "When people frame a particular situation in terms of a metaphor, they are in fact not just using colorful language, they are conveying certain kinds of expectations that go along with that metaphor," he says.