Office Communication: I Know Your Dirt, But Not What You Do

Besides romances and high-school drama, more problems are caused because of the lack of office communication.

Groups do not communicate, individual team members don’t talk (except to mutter how hideous Priscilla’s shoes are) and management doesn’t convey important facts to the people who have to carry out the directives.

Why is it that when there’s a complaint, we have no problem communicating effectively to whomever will listen – but when it is time to understand what’s going on and where within an organization no one can knows?

Communication within specific teams is vital, but the real breakdown is how goals, directives, success and initiatives of a certain team are shared outside of the department to other parts of an organization.

A prime example of this is, recently a person I know was let go from a company during a round of layoffs. Several days after being released from the job, this person received in the mail, a note from the president of the company, congratulating the former employee for one year of service – and wished the person many more years of contribution. Hmmm. Didn’t the company’s president know who was on the layoff list? Did someone forget to do their due diligence before sending out this ridiculous card only days after a layoff?

This shining example of communication from the top, down not being carried out properly is one of many painful errors that not only tarnish a company’s reputation outwardly but also diminish morale and productivity from within.

From a management perspective, communication is key, but yet managers continually have breakdown between themselves and team members.

Why is this?

Why, with all the forms of communication we have at our disposal these days, is it so difficult for the right hand to know what the left is doing?

The multiple avenues of communication lend themselves to siloed conversations that don’t necessarily get communicated to the entire group and in turn, to upper management. Also, we are increasingly forced to accept a management who, on paper look fantastic, but when asked to actually give updates or speak in a group setting can’t articulate in a way those who need to, can process the information. Such is the problem with the Social Media age.

Don’t get me wrong. I live and die by communication devices but it is vastly important these methods we use to keep up with each other 24/7 don’t replace what is needed to do our jobs to the best of our abilities – a simple conversation.

We all know having a conversation is easy (if we’re not too lazy to get up out of our chairs – and even if we are, most have wheels), but actually discerning the best way to speak in order for someone to digest what is being said is a totally different matter. Is it an employee’s responsibility to learn how to communicate with his manager or is it a manager’s job to learn how to communicate with each employee?

If you do an online search for workplace communication, it is easily seen the consensus is: It Is Management’s Responsibility to Effectively Communicate with Each and Every Employee.

Management communication courses teach very practically the importance of a leader’s ability to adapt his/her communication style to connect with each employee. These classes also tout the true way to learn how to communicate with your employees is by listening to them and taking note of their communication nuances and styles. Is the person a sports nut? Does she love to talk about her kids? Is the new guy really into Call of Duty?

Being able to interact on an interest level and really listening to how a person speaks not only gives insight into their lives but also into the very things that make him/her tick. Understanding this and developing varying communication styles is a huge step in creating a workplace where everyone is writing on the same page and working towards a common goal.

Just think about the increase in productivity if everyone simply knew what everyone else was doing (Really, why is it we know that Rhonda is going out with Peter on Friday night, but we had no idea she just finished working on the annual budget?).

As management is responsible for departmental communication, they are also the ambassadors and messengers to other departments. Think about the breakdown in communication in the situation I described above: The department manager gave HR the list of names for the layoffs. The HR person should have immediately given that same list to someone who should’ve communicated it to the president of the organization. In the above instance, the person who really looked foolish was the actual president of the company for not knowing what was going on in his own organization.

Communication within the workplace is and will always be a relevant topic for discussion. All we can do is constantly challenge our leadership or those aspiring to leadership to understand how important it is to communicate clearly and affectively. It not only can earn a person a top-paying job, but also the respect of the people working for and with him/her.

Share some of your workplace communication nightmares … feel free to leave out the names to protect the not-so-innocent.

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