The younger generation has changed the rules of communication in 2012 and this is not always a good thing. Texting and emailing is pervasive and has improved communication as far as quick delivery and response. But it lends itself to many miscommunications and misunderstandings, as well. So how do we improve the lines of communication effectively using the advanced technology that is so prevalent in the 21st Century? Many have felt like they were treated unfairly in the workplace as a result of emails that were carelessly worded. Managers and superiors often voice their anger or disappointment via email communication. This can breed resentment and insecurity. Understanding the context of specific words and communicating those ideas effectively can be tricky. Business relationships, especially those between superiors and subordinates, are often rocky due to poor communication, a lack or misinterpretation of facts, pressurized environments, and a mutual commitment to success. As in sports and politics, many business errors are unforced. Mole hills become mountains, and mistakes become disasters due to emotions and overreactions. Research has proven that emotions often overrule intellect, a consequence of having to fight or flee eons before when beasts ate people who were slow to decide whether they were dangerous.
Think before you act. Emotions tempt us to say and do things we may regret later. Never make quick decisions based upon superficial evidence. Try to investigate an issue thoroughly before responding harshly. Technology enables us to capture massive amounts of data and slice and dice it to make it appear any way we want. But data is a representation of the problem, not the problem itself. Observing the work and then talking and listening to the different aspects of a job might lead to a different conclusion and thus have different outcomes. Gather and confirm information before any decisions are made.
Focus on problems and not personalities. Accusing employees of being lazy or derelict can often lead to unexpected outcomes that are not favorable to a business environment. Avoid using emotionally charged words. Emotional context in memos overshadows factual content and purpose. Don’t send any email, message, letter, memo, or report to others until you’ve had a day to reflect upon its content and are sure it communicates the facts and the tone you wish.
Manage individuals, not groups. Lack of specificity enables each recipient to feel personal responsibility. It can lead to resentment and misunderstanding to those who truly are not culpable in the first place. Group communications are perfect for providing general information, education, and praise; however, they should not be used for individual direction or criticism. Remember, praise in public and criticize in private.
Meet subordinates in person. The meaning and intent of written words without the context of a physical presence is often misunderstood, and can lead to confusion and conflict. There is no substitute for looking someone in the eye and seeing their reaction to your conversation to clarify content and assure comprehension and agreement.
Whenever you receive what you consider to be an unjustified personal attack or criticism, recognize the source and the circumstances before jumping to a conclusion. Management and leadership is a learned skill. Effective managers have experience on both sides of the spectrum, taking directions as well as giving them. And the success of a company is directly related to the skill of its managers and their ability to lead employees through difficult and testing times.
By analyzing and being thoughtful in your communications with both your subordinates and superiors, you can better learn how to lead in whatever position you have. In this way, you’ll not only secure your future prospects to rise up your company’s ranks, but you’ll also create a more productive and better working environment for yourself and your colleagues.