Posts Tagged ‘workplace communication’
I’ll never forget sitting in a meeting with other department leaders, at my last job, and hearing that another department was working on the very thing that my department had been working on for months. We were a lean organization. No one had time for unnecessarily redundant work. And yet there were two departments working on the same project without knowing it.
As crazy as it sounds, this isn’t uncommon. People often know very little about what others across their organization do. Sometimes people on the same team don’t even know what type of work fellow team members are doing. This lack of knowledge can lead to conflict (i.e. get off my turf), wasted resources, and stale ideas. If you know two departments are working to solve similar challenges, sharing ideas is likely to generate better solutions.
Friday is National Swap Ideas Day. This sounds like a cheesy, invented holiday, but we’ve all been frustrated or constrained by a lack of sharing of ideas in our workplaces. So in honor of this invented holiday, here are five ways to find out what others in your organization are doing in the hopes of sharing more ideas and resources.
Workplace Communication Tip #1: This will sound basic, but be sure to let the people and departments impacted by your work know what you’re doing. I.e., if you’re advertising a new product, let the folks in fulfillment know they need to staff up the day the advertisement hits prospects’ and clients’ offices or they may not have enough people to fulfill orders. I’m embarrassed to admit we’ve made this mistake at Candid Culture. Oops.
Workplace Communication Tip #2: Create opportunities for departments who impact each other to communicate on a regular basis. Either literally get teams together quarterly to discuss what they’re working on, or if that’s not feasible, select liaisons from each department to meet regularly and discuss current and upcoming projects.
During the discussions, ask these questions:
- What are you working on?
- What challenges are you having?
- What are you trying to change?
- How can we help you?
- What are you working on that we could do together?
- How could our departments work better together?
Workplace Communication Tip #3: Widen your net and ask people you typically don’t have a lot (or any) contact with for their ideas on something you’re working on. Someone doesn’t necessarily need deep knowledge or expertise to offer a suggestion, they just need to think differently than you do.
Workplace Communication Tip #4: Be open to help, new ideas, and sharing projects. It’s easy to feel threatened and territorial at work, thinking that if someone else can do what you do, that you become extraneous. It’s not easy to find employees who are hardworking, reliable, effective, and low drama. Bring all of those qualities to work, and you have nothing to worry about. So start sharing.
Workplace Communication Tip #5: Keep up whatever idea-sharing practice you start. It’s common to try one of the ideas suggested above and then let the practice lapse when things get busy. Put processes in place to make sharing ideas the normal way that you work.
You likely have enough to do. You don’t need to be working on projects that someone else is working on. And sometimes hearing how a coworker would approach a problem will give you a solution you need. Share ideas. Work together across teams and departments and maybe you’ll end working less.
You know when someone gives you ‘the tone’. Similar to when people roll their eyes at you, when you get ‘the tone’ you’re being told that the other person is exasperated.
Tone of voice communication is one of the hardest things to coach because we don’t hear ourselves. People who give people ‘the tone’ rarely know they’re doing it. One of the best ways I know to effectively coach tone of voice is to ask tone givers to tape themselves during phone calls. Then listen to the recording together and ask the tone giver, “If your grandmother called and someone spoke to her that way, would you be happy?” You can also read written correspondence out loud, adding the tone you ‘heard’, and ask the sender how she would have interpreted the message.
When given the tone, most people feel judged. And when people feel judged, conversations are constrained.
The way to avoid giving ‘the tone’ is to come from a place of curiosity. When you ask the question, “What were you thinking when you approached the customer that way,” you can sound curious or judgmental. Being judgmental evokes defensiveness, which shuts conversations down. Being curious creates discussion.
Consider asking questions like these to invite discussion:
• Tell me more about…
• Help me understand what happened here…
• What are your thoughts about…
• What’s the history behind….
• Why do we do it this way?
Any of these questions will lead to good discussion, if you manage your tone.
If you want to get information or influence someone, ask questions and engage the person in a dialogue. We often try to persuade people by giving them information. This rarely works. Instead of over loading people with data, ask questions which evoke discussion. Through discussion you might get to a different place. And if not, you’ll at least have learned why the other person thinks as he does and you will have shared your point of view in a way that is inviting versus off putting.
It’s easy to give people ‘the tone’ when we’re tired and frustrated. Try to avoid difficult conversations when you’re tired or stressed. Wait to have important conversations until you know you can manage yourself and your tone.
Many organizations spend more money than they have to on employee recognition gifts and appreciation programs that often involve bonuses, paid time off, contests, gifts, and other expensive forms of compensation. What employees want most is to know they’re doing a good job.
Giving feedback in the workplace is the cheapest, most effective, and often overlooked form of employee recognition. Employees want to know how they’re performing, and most employees get little to no positive or constructive feedback at work. They may not want to hear negative feedback, but employees want to know if they aren’t meeting expectations.
In one of Candid Culture’s training programs, I give participants a box of questions to help coworkers set expectations and improve workplace communication. Some of the questions include:
- Do you prefer to receive information via email, voicemail, or text message?
- Are you a big picture or a detail person?
- What are your pet peeves at work?
- What type of work do you like to do most? What type of work do you like to do least?
- What do you wish I would start, stop, and continue doing?
I am consistently amazed at how often training participants ask what their coworkers wish they would start, stop and continue doing. I assume employees will be hesitant to ask for constructive feedback in front of a group of peers. But training participants consistently tell me that they get almost no positive or constructive feedback at work, and they’re desperate for the information.
Here’s How to Celebrate Valentine’s Day at Work Without Spending Money:
- Give clear, specific, and timely positive and negative feedback. Employees want to know how they’re performing.
- Ask what type of work employees really want to do, and let them do that work most of the time.
- Ask what skills employees want to learn, and give them a chance to attain those skills.
- Write hand written notes of appreciation.
Employees at Candid Culture get their birthdays off paid. We often buy employees lunch, give bonuses, and have a generous time off policy. Those perks are important and do help retain employees. But monetary rewards never replace or supersede the value of being aware of employees’ performance and caring enough to tell employees the truth.