The Elephant In the Room/Seven Strategies For Effective Communication At Work

We live in an era marked by rapid economic, technological and social change. Pressure to perform in this very competitive environment routinely takes its tolls on workers and professionals. Stress is a given. In addition to this stress there can be an Elephant In The Room which when not dealt with only magnifies stress and can hamper the effectiveness of an organization. The Elephant In The Room is often the inability to communicate clearly with empathy and respect to a co-worker, partner, associate, secretary, etc. The inability to communicate effectively is causing too many problems for too many businesses and organizations.

Many smart professionals are too busy with tasks, deadlines, the job at hand to deal with the issue of fostering effective communication because as an uncomfortable issue it can be set aside to the priority of a report, meeting, surgery, court appearance, deadline,etc. 

But what is the cost of not trying to improve communication and relationships? Too often the avoidance of communication issues result in the very thing that no business wants. Low morale, high attrition, detrimental effects on clients, customers, vendors, and ultimately loss of business and revenue.

Here is how poor communication can wreak havoc and lead to a downward spiral. When workers receive information that is poorly communicated, the result can be confusion or misunderstandings which can often lead to mistakes on the job. Mistakes can then affect perception of competency which then effects self-esteem, and can cause blame, projection and conflict.

In an atmosphere of low morale, there can be a hesitancy to get clarification or ask questions needed due to apprehension or a concern of how one will be perceived. Written communications, e-mails, etc. can also exacerbate discord or tension when personal relationships are not strong, and words can be perceived as judgmental or attacking. In this kind of environment, it is easier for personality differences to be highlighted and blamed as people may be quick to point the finger when things go wrong.

The above scenarios do exist and again the costs of not dealing with them are high. The good news is that there are strategies and techniques that when put into place can turn things around. Here are Seven Strategies For Effective Communication that can make a difference at your firm or organization:

1. There should be A Clear Articulation of the Core Values or Mission of the organization to all employees, partners, members, etc. so that this vision is known by all. It has been said that without a vision, the people perish. Vague goals make people feel that they are working in a vacuum without a compass, and can foster a hunkered down mentality that is more about survival than thriving. On the other hand there is nothing like clearly defined goals, vision and values to inspire, motivate and unite people in common purpose.

2. A Commitment to Mutual Support and Respect for all members of an organization. That may start with an acknowledgment that what another person brings to the table and their value to the organization is important and a priority. Individuality is also respected. The commitment to respect, civility, support is shown in the way people are treated. It is important to see people as people and not impersonally. Simple acknowledgment in conversation, e-mail, etc. and taking the extra time to make that acknowledgment can go a long way in showing caring and regard for another. This makes people more vested in the places that they work.

3. Asking Questions is encouraged so there is barrier-less communication. Answering questions is not viewed as a time waster but serves as a way to clarify a task or job so that time is ultimately saved, and productivity heightened.

4. Don't Make Assumptions that another person should think the way you do. Tune into them, Make the effort to get to know them, and then you will know what they need to perform at their best.

5. Don't Make Assumptions that a person with a different title is a certain way, and very different from you because of their title. Stereotypes about others are dangerous and can cause separation and the reluctance to want to work closely with another.

6. Have a mechanism to deal with disagreements. Too often disagreements can lead to apathy, hostility or a breakdown in civility in a working environment. It is important to address these disagreements directly before they fester and cause damage such as in lowering morale or at worst leading to law suits down the road. Disagreements are part of life and work, and the worst thing to do is ignore them when feelings are hurt or negative perceptions are formed. It is important to initiate conversations to clarify these issues, and do it in a planned and calm way where there can be a focus on the issues. One of the main ways to overcome a potentially negative situation with another is for each person to express perspectives and concerns where they know they will be listened to, respected and not interrupted. Often times people in a disagreement do not listen to one another, but instead talk over each other trying to make their points. A great technique in listening is to repeat or mirror back to the other person what they just said and to ask questions to get further clarity. That kind of validation will go a long way in establishing good will which can motivate people to look at the bigger picture of how to work together. Also if an expectation was not met, or there was a disappointment or misunderstanding, it can be talked about, even diffused or a new solution can arise when an atmosphere of validation and respect is present.

7. Invest in Leadership Skills Training and/or Conflict Resolution when there is a loss of how to address communication issues proactively within the organization. A trained coach, facilitator, mediator can make a huge difference by offering an outside perspective that addresses problems directly and empowers members of an organization with the clarity and the skills to re-establish common ground to work effectively with one another.

It may come as no surprise that firms and organizations where communication is strong are more resilient and adapt better to changing and demanding times. If your firm is not addressing The Elephant In the Room because of busyness or any other reason, it may be time to acknowledge that elephant instead of giving it a chance to wreak its havoc on your organization.

Article Source: Philip Okrend

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