Employee Communications Part 1: Some Do’s and Don’ts
A key influencer of the bottom line in any workplace is communication. Be it with customers, internally or even with the media, communication can and does affect any business model at every level. Even the military views a unit’s ability to operate efficiently as having the ability to “shoot, move, and communicate.”
In my time in the workforce, both military and civilian, and I have seen some methods of communication – particularly employee communications internally from management - that are indeed either powerfully efficient, or dreadfully ineffective.
Some Do’s of Employee Communications
Email is your friend. Despite what a lot of articles and professionals recommend, I believe that email is the best way to capture information in a very quick and easy way. A lot of people tend to downplay email, usually stating that it’s too impersonal or doesn’t convey emotion. But that shouldn’t be the function of email. If emotion or a personal touch needs to be conveyed, it shouldn’t be emailed. What should be emailed is anything pertaining to the accomplishment of a task as it applies to an organization. Email serves not only as a way of initiating work, but it also serves as a running record of your daily tasks and what you did or did not do. If it’s on email, no one can say otherwise.
Mix it up a bit. An important part of employee communications is to get up and move around the office and see co-workers that you know and just do a bit of talking. Even small talk can bring up information that might be used later down the road on projects or day-to-day work. This doesn’t mean go chat up everyone all the time, but if there is someone that you work near, just ask them what they’re working on. This tends to lead to passive brainstorming and could have some positive outcomes.
Situational Awareness. If you are a leader of any size of team, employee communications are vital for your team’s success. This is true not only to the completion of tasks that your team is designed to do, but also to how your team operates. A lot of leaders tend to not share knowledge from their higher sources, leave out key information about deadlines, withhold guidance, etc. If you share your entirety of knowledge with your team, this will not only help them in envisioning what you want, but it will likely make them feel as though they are vital to you. An informed employee is not only a smarter employee, but a loyal employee.
Some Don’ts of Employee Communications
No one wants this sandwich. Commonly called the “compliment sandwich,” usually when people want to criticize something, they tend to lead in with a good, deliver the bad, then end with a good. Not only is this a dreadfully inefficient use of time, but I’ve seen it backfire many times. I’ve even personally been a victim of misinterpretation on this one. If the good points of the “sandwich” are overpoweringly good, then usually a person just sees the criticism as something that needs to be worked on with no deadline or possible ramifications if left unfixed. The best thing to do when addressing a negative is just identify it directly and be clear about what you want done. In employee communications, this not only ensures that there is no mystery about what is wrong, but it also ensures that it is important enough to directly address.
Bad news is not fine wine. Bad news certainly does not get better with age. Another faux pas of employee communications that I’ve seen both in the military and civilian worlds is that supervisors tend to wait until the last minute to communicate bad news. This can have devastating effects because employees will look at how long the supervisor has known this and, if word gets out before the bad news is communicated (and it usually does), this only leads to rumor and speculation on the part of the employees. The speculation can have serious effects on morale and people’s ability to do work. That being said, it is understandable that information should be 100% confirmed before it is communicated. But, again, employees will never fault their supervisor for being too informative. As long as employees are kept in the news feed, you can tell them literally almost anything as long as you’re consistent about keeping it updated. Information is rarely a bad thing.
Volume does nothing. Yelling at work is not an effective form of employee communication. This practice, to me, is the mark of a true non-professional in terms of the ability to emphasize the importance of a failure, usually. The problem with raising your voice above a concerned tone is that it doesn’t have a consistent impact over time. Given that the first few loud rants are usually effective in getting people going, it’s a slippery slope that very quickly erodes a person’s character. Supervisors or employees that yell tend to be quickly labeled hotheads or people whose feathers are easily ruffled. Supervisors that yell are often dismissed quickly because scream sessions lose their effectiveness very quickly. Regular yelling usually causes employees to lose loyalty, not work as hard, and sometimes even see if they can push their supervisors into a fit. If it’s a fellow employee who tends to become too passionate about stuff, then fellow employees tend to dismiss most of what the angry individual has to say, or just ignore them completely. The most effective leader I’ve ever seen never yelled. He could stink eye you into the ground but his leadership style never included yelling and that’s what gave him the reputation of being very level-headed, stalwart and completely unflappable.
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