I just want one normal day at work. No surprises, no emergencies, just a simple day where we can all do our jobs without feeling like the sky is falling.

Surprises at work are rarely well received except for maybe raises, promotions, or at Halloween. Even surprises that have positive impacts are dimly viewed by some as they are removed from their comfort zone.

In general, being kept in the loop about daily activities, pending changes, and known issues is appreciated, and this also holds true for leaders and clients.

We once worked with a leader that strongly shared, and in colorful language, that he should not find out about problems caused by his team by someone other than a team member.

His intent was actually very positive despite his delivery being a bit harsh.  Once he explained his intent, his message made sense. When he’s informed, he won’t be blindsided, he can share the known facts, provide status updates, perhaps have an idea when the issue will be (or has been resolved), and most importantly, he shared he’d do all he could to support his team member.

Communication is the first and most important step for preventing surprises. When in doubt, over communicate and be sure to provide as many details and facts as possible:

1.    What’s the situation?
2.    Who is/was impacted and in what way?
3.    Who needs to be kept in the loop?
4.    Is the root cause known? What can be done to prevent a reoccurrence?
5.    Provide status updates

a.    For large issues with severe impacts, we suggest hourly
b.    For medium issues with a moderate amount of disruption, twice daily
c.    For issues with minimal impact, daily

6.    Once the issue/problem is resolved:

a.    Identify and share the root cause
b.    Document the solution and what will be done so it does not happen again.

Having a work culture that owns issues, communicates them, and works towards a permanent solution will build integrity and trust levels and prevent unpleasant “surprises”.

Good management is the art of making problems so interesting and their solutions so constructive that everyone wants to get to work and deal with them.
—Paul Hawken