Effective Employee Communication Part 2: How to Avoid Trouble
Clear and effective employee communication is an element of everyday work operations and is absolutely vital to all aspects of business interaction. And, keeping it both accurate and efficient can be tricky.
Most of us were taught about the challenges to accurate communication as kids. You likely played the game at some type of youth camp where everyone sits in a circle and the game begins with a whisper. The first person whispers a word or phrase into the next person’s ear and can only whisper it once. Each person subsequently whispers into the next person’s ear until the very end. Usually, a phrase like, “I have two cats,” ends up being something akin to, “I live boo rats.”
The following is my advice on how to avoid an “I live boo rats” outcome at work.
Tips for Accurate and Effective Employee Communication
The following points are tips I’ve picked up on my career path to be a more efficient and more effective communicator at work.
Sum it up. It’s just that simple. Usually, when we encounter workplace problems, whoever has been charged with identifying and figuring the problem out will end up digging a bit too deep. Accordingly, when that employee is asked to summarize the problem they tend to agonize over details.
For example, if I’m a supervisor and an employee calls in sick and says, “I can’t come in because I’ve got a hairline fracture of the medial aspect of my greater trochanter,” they could just as easily have said, “I can’t come in because my hip’s broke.” If you are reporting an issue, be able to sum it up as succinctly and clearly as possible. This will not only save you time having to re-explain it should it not be understood, it also allows a decision maker to choose a course of action quicker.
Bring a solution. The saying “two of the same trade never agree” is a saying I’ve seen confirmed throughout many organizations, and it’s absolutely a healthy thing. Subordinates who question processes are usually the people that have a vested interest in making processes more efficient and logical. However, it’s easy to just point out flaws in things; it’s harder to identify a course of action to correct them.
It’s important that if you’re pointing out flaws in a process or program that you set aside at least two different solutions or suggestions on how this may be fixed. The adage “if you’re not a part of the solution, you’re part of the problem” is born of this. If you’re the employee, this will make you appear to be invested in both the process and the organization. Additionally, you won’t appear to be an employee who consistently complains about everything.
Why? I agree with this statement: “Disagreement isn’t necessarily dissent.” In going with the ideas above, many supervisors don’t usually like to be questioned. This is something that is even more frowned upon in the military.
But, in my leadership roles, I’ve always encouraged both employees and soldiers to ask why I’m giving a directive. The reasoning in this is that if I’m telling you to do something, but I can’t tell you why, then why would I be telling you to do it? Now, of course, there are always those instances where you’re only executing a directive given to you by your boss and those items you simply need to carry out. But subordinates should have the ability to ask why. This does two things: (1) allows them to understand the necessity of the order, and (2) instills in them a greater feeling of trust between supervisor and employee.
Make it your own. If you’ve ever worked in management role, there have most likely been times that you’ve been required to announce an employee policy that was passed by your supervisor that you weren’t particularly thrilled about. Even more so, it was more likely a policy you knew that your subordinates wouldn’t be thrilled about. The important thing to remember here is that any decision that your supervisor makes, it becomes yours. If you express any type of disagreement publicly with your subordinates about your supervisor’s decision, it not only degrades your supervisor’s authority, it creates an undertone of dissent in your organization, which can be outright poisonous to a workforces’ loyalty.
Group meetings. I don’t believe I’ve ever worked with anyone that was excited to go to a large group meeting to complete work-related tasks. Without looking at any empirical research as to why we don’t like meetings, my gut will tell me this. The majority of our time we spend in group meetings, we’re usually in receive mode. A large portion of any information that is presented at group meetings can usually be disseminated in an email or bulletin.
Now don’t get me wrong. Meetings are important because they can become large, informative quorums for dialogue between teams that perhaps don’t have much interaction. Meetings do become counterproductive when an individual has an issue that needs to be discussed with only one other individual. This often happens, for example, at the portion towards the end of any meeting where the questions and comments come up. Usually, there will be one employee who will talk openly to or have a question for only one other employee. This should never be allowed to transpire because it’s wasting group time and could easily be solved outside the meeting. Group meetings should be used primarily to either disseminate information or conduct fact finding as it concerns the flow of work in an organization.
Effective Employee Communications: Take the Time to Get Them Right
Communication in the execution of daily work duties is important to get right. The best element to remember is that effective employee communication should be short, to the point and should be supported by additional information, if needed.
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