When Is Communication Not Really Communication?

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Summary:

Complaints in the workplace about insufficient or inadequate communication are common, yet that very word "communication" is subject to multiple interpretations.

Here's an example of what I mean: A director had a survey conducted to determine the cause of his employees' low morale. One of the key findings was their desire for more communication. Eager to put things right, the director began circulating more reports and email than ever. And as a voracious reader, he started to extract articles from his many periodicals and circulate them to everyone.

Complaints in the workplace about insufficient or inadequate communication are common, yet that very word "communication" is subject to multiple interpretations.

Here's an example of what I mean: A director had a survey conducted to determine the cause of his employees' low morale. One of the key findings was their desire for more communication. Eager to put things right, the director began circulating more reports and email than ever. And as a voracious reader, he started to extract articles from his many periodicals and circulate them to everyone.

Morale, however, did not rise. It may even have dropped a notch.

Why? Because what many of the director's employees meant by wanting "more communication" was that they wanted him to wander by more often and ask how things were going. They wanted to feel that he appreciated how hard they were working. They wanted to hear from him not just when they'd made mistakes or fallen short, but also when they they'd done things right. They wanted, basically, to know that he knew they existed and were doing the best they could under difficult circumstances.

What they really wanted was some attention and recognition. Yet, savvy though he was, the director never thought to question either their interpretation of "communication" or his own, so he couldn't understand why his good intentions changed nothing.

Can you think of words or concepts in your own workplace that could have different meanings to others than they do to you? Some such differences are of minimal consequence; others, as this example illustrates, make all the difference.

User Comments

5 comments
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous

A bit like "Stickyminds" e-mail dropping into my in-tray to highlight this blog :-D<br><br>But agree with the blog 100%. I'm trying to get the same message across in my current location.

May 19, 2010 - 3:18pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous

Employees often want 'acknowledgement' for a job well done! <br>Acknowledgement can refer to a simple ' thank you' in the form of an email/certificate, a favourable mention at the next company meeting, time off for unbilled hours on a project or a bonus of some sort!

May 19, 2010 - 3:18pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous

Communication is key. To get the best out of you employees you have to create buy in and get them happy to come to work. Instead of pulling down we need to build.

May 19, 2010 - 3:29pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous

At least the director in question started out with the right intention. There is no great voodoo involved in good communication: peopel want to know what is going on, what is going to happen and how it all affects them from a work and a personal perspective. Sound simple and can be that simple unless you get managers who delight in playing mind games. Iknow,, I know, good managers don't do that, but in my experience only one in 9 managers is a good manager.<br><br>What is often passed off as communication is discommunication: intentionally misleading information, perhaps not technically false, but intended to mislead. Also, I have worked with managers who adhere to the belief that information is power and who intentionally hoard information in the belief that it enhances their status.

May 19, 2010 - 7:13pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous

I agree communication is key. If you want true improvements, however, the communciation needs to flow freely both ways. Not only do people want to know what is going on, they want to know what they have to say matters.

May 21, 2010 - 1:51am

About the author

Naomi Karten's picture Naomi Karten

Naomi Karten is a highly experienced speaker and seminar leader who draws from her psychology and IT backgrounds to help organizations improve customer satisfaction, manage change, and strengthen teamwork. She has delivered seminars and keynotes to more than 100,000 people internationally. Naomi's newest books are Presentation Skills for Technical Professionals and Changing How You Manage and Communicate Change. Her other books and ebooks include Managing Expectations, Communication Gaps and How to Close Them, and How to Survive, Excel and Advance as an Introvert. Readers have described her newsletter, Perceptions & Realities, as lively, informative, and a breath of fresh air. She is a regular columnist for StickyMinds.com. When not working, Naomi's passion is skiing deep powder. Contact her at naomi@nkarten.com or via her Web site, www.nkarten.com.

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