We get it. You’re busy. We’re all busy, and we don’t always pay attention to how we communicate. Fire off an email and move on to the next task. That’s the way we work, that’s the way we get shit done. Problem is, those quick and careless emails can have huge consequences if they are creating problems for your employees.
The way that managers communicate (or miscommunicate) with their employees is almost always problematic, and one of the top triggers around generating resentful and threatened employees.
Here is a really basic rule: when operating in an environment of unequal power, the person with less power requires greater clarity and neutrality in order to maintain a sense of safety. This is human nature. We don’t have to like it, but since we can’t change it, we might as well understand it and ultimately make it work to our advantage.
Poor communication between a manager and employee will increase the stress level for an already over-stressed employee, and can create conditions that will push them out of their window of tolerance.
How much unnecessary grief is generated by a carelessly written communication? Managers rely almost exclusively on email and memos to communicate with their employees. (Executives do this as well but are far less likely to email employees directly.) The biggest problem with managers’ over-reliance on email really surfaces when the information being disseminated involves an important issue such as an organizational change, new policy implementations, or staffing changes. There is rarely enough clarity provided in an email and no real mechanism for employees to ask questions. If you think that having HR review the email is enough before sending, think again!
Employees will always interpret the “intent” behind the information being sent to them, and each employee will filter this important announcement through their life stressors, job fantasies, and experience of power in the workplace. Remember, you having power over your employees will always make you suspect. Once they run the email through their own internal “Employee Translation Program” you can bet the information they are left with is a more threatening, destabilizing version of the original.
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