Communication Breakdown…in the Workplace
Writing my post on job descriptions has made me think about that next step…once you have the job.
Although more and more we are seeing the opportunity to define your own role and responsbility in words, on paper, what happens once you walk in the door and sign your W2?…assuming that people are still hiring full time employees! However, whether full time or consulting, the issue is the same. Once you begin your new position as a “self starter”, which is key in many work environments today, you begin to realize that the writing of the job description was likely going to be your easiest assignment!
What I am talking about is Communication Breakdown…in the workplace. Trust me, communication is breaking down everywhere but in this post, I will focus on work.
Strange, isn’t it? In a world where there are so many options to communicate, share, engage, it is the one area of dysfunction. It is a dysfunction in how an organization is structured, it is a dysfunction in interpersonal communications. Lets face it…job descriptions are evolving (based on my previous post) and as a result, so is a serious lack of accountability and responsibility. There is no chain of command the way there used to be. We are having more and more meetings and somehow, less and less gets heard. How is it possible to sit on a phone call or in a conference room and leave the “discussion” with the same amount of information as you went in with?
From my observations, people like to talk…A LOT. Maybe it is because they don’t get out much? Or maybe it is because the spend most of their time on email, text, etc. Perhaps once they see a fellow human being, they remember the concept of human interaction and the verbal vomit rears its ugly head.
Yet, there is a problem…no one wants to just listen. Who has the patience anymore? Our attention span is getting shorter and shorter. However, give people the opportunity to share and engage and you might be successful in getting listeners as well as speakers.
Going back to my theory of “not washing rented cars”, it is important to create a level of involvement and participation. You will always find those individuals who will think so highly of themselves that they want to steal the floor…the entire time. What ultimately happens is that the audience tunes out. So, nothing gets heard nor accomplished. Regardless of whether smartphones and computers/tablets are allowed in the meeting rooms or not.
When I was in 2nd grade, my teacher, Madame Varga, told my parents that I was “dans la lune”. She was probably right. Why listen to her boring lectures when I could be thinking about more interesting things? And this was before the days of digital technology.
I have never been very good at being patient however a very wise friend recently told me that it is important to have the patience of a fisherman…so, I consider myself a fisherman in training. But that is me and certainly does not speak for anyone else.
I digress. What I have realized, the hard way and have yet to figure out the best solution to this challenge is that communication breakdown in the workplace is likely to get worse before it gets better. And may in fact be here to stay. Many of my projects are virtual. I can work from the moon if I wanted, which is fabulous…especially if there is somewhere exotic for me to work from…(if you have a suggestion, please let me know…oh, and send a plane ticket too!).
But working virtually also has its issues.
My life is mainly through email and Skype. Although this should be good enough it really isn’t. Emails often go unanswered, responses are not final so the back and forth can become overwhelming and somehow the written word is not as ingrained as the spoken word (although I also challenge this). Most importantly is the etiquette…or lack thereof. People become Neanderthals when hiding behind a screen. It confirms yet again this lack of ownership and accountability.
As a result, information doesn’t get passed on and thus, you become a detective in search of knowledge…knowledge needed to do your job. It would be much easier to be given what you need….meaning, if people communicated the details, there would be less “loss in translation”…translation being “oh, I thought I emailed you…texted you…told you (on the phone, on Skype)…”.
Far too many times have I been in situations where I learn about things after the fact. Initially I have been frustrated as I consider myself pretty conscientious and diligent. But I am learning. Learning to not care so much. Not to be so invested. I am learning to rent, instead of own. My patience of a “fisherman in training” is teaching me that. If there are things I am not told nor included in, then I have to begin to assume it is because there was no need (even if I differ in opinion). Or that no one else on the job cares enough to make sure to include all key resources in the discussion.
In the end, if we all continue moving forward in this manner, we will all be spinning our wheels. Salaries will consist of researching information due to lack of communication vs doing the job/getting it done. I wonder if it will in the end, take longer to finish tasks because of this? I guess time will tell.