Five Habits that Contribute to Poor Workplace Communication
Posted to HR.com by Marlene Chism, consultant and author of Stop Workplace Drama; www.stopworkplacedrama.com.
At a recent retreat of business leaders, an executive admitted he says things like, “What’s wrong with you? Are you incompetent?” Deep down, he knows this to be ineffective communication that in no way contributes to better workplace relationships. The reason he came clean: He realized his behavior impacted everyone in the workplace. Everyone was afraid—afraid to admit a mistake, afraid to speak up, afraid to make a suggestion. His ineffective communication contributed to poor morale and negativity.
Here are five ineffective communication patterns that contribute to workplace drama. In every instance part of the solution is to simply ask for what you want.
• Focusing on what you don’t want
• Being too vague• Complaining
• Sarcasm and innuendo
Focusing on What You Don’t Want—When you focus on telling an employee what you don’t want instead of what you do want, you get more push back and negativity. For example, don’t say “I don’t want to have to tell you to complete your tasks, tasks like getting your report due at the end of the month and emptying the trash before you leave work.”
Instead, say, “I want you to complete your tasks such as emptying the trash before leaving and getting that report done by the end of the month, without me having to tell you.”
Ask for what you want instead of what you don’t want, and set a boundary that includes a consequence. If going positive doesn’t give you the results you need, you need to look at your accountability system or provide a one-on-one meeting to discuss job performance.
Being too Vague—Failing to be specific about a preferred behavior can make it difficult to receive cooperation. For example, consider the vague statement: “Please quit being so resistant and just step up to the plate and be a team player.”
What do you mean by “resistant” and “team player?” This could possibly be a training issue. Does the person know his job responsibilities and was he trained properly? Are there too many competing priorities on his plate, and you are seeing only one piece of the puzzle?
Solution: Clearly define the behaviors you want to elicit, and ensure the employee has a clearly defined job responsibility and understands how his role relates to the whole. Example: “Sue, when Tom is tied up on the phone and a new client walks in, I need you to immediately get the paperwork started, then let Tom know before you go on break.”
Complaining—Believe it or not, leaders complain—and sometimes quite often. For example, “It’s exhausting to have to keep reminding you. Why can’t you just anticipate when help is needed?”
The energy spent complaining and asking rhetorical questions does little to gain cooperation. A leader who complains sets a terrible example for how to effectively communicate.
Instead of complaining, ask for what you want and eliminate the time wasted complaining about your own mental and emotional state. You are responsible for your own well-being.
Sarcasm and Accusations…are not effective communication techniques. Examples: “Oh that’s really brilliant,” or, “I hope you’re happy now that you’ve put me in this mess.” In fact, if you use sarcasm and manipulation, you could be accused of disruptive behavior in the workplace.
You may get some compliance using these manipulative tools, but you won’t gain commitment. While sometimes it becomes necessary to express disappointment, the key is to learn how to do so without blaming or game-playing.
Express frustration by representing yourself. For example, “John, I am extremely frustrated right now and I need your ideas to get this report out by tomorrow.” Now you have effectively communicated your state of mind and your desire to get the work done without blaming or using sarcasm.
Resentment—Employees know when the boss is resentful by the terse communication and tone in the voice. For example, “Today I asked you to drop by the post office and deliver these packages. I also told you we are out of postage stamps, but did you even think to ask me if I could pick some up when you were there?” Pointing out someone’s failures when you are tired or overworked is never a good idea, no matter what role you play in the organization.When you want to effectively communicate a thinking or performance error, paint a picture of what you want to occur rather than point out what went wrong. Example: “Hey Mary, when you leave for lunch, please stop by to ask if I need anything. That way you can make only one trip away from the office instead of being interrupted during the day.” MF
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