THE ULTIMATE BLOG ON ALL THINGS HR
& THEN SOME
& THEN SOME
In “Stairmageddon”--an episode of The Office--Dwight pushes boss Andy for direction. Unfortunately, Dwight wasn’t forthcoming with his needs and Andy was not clear in his direction. Dwight was driven to fulfill a goal but went about it in a completely inappropriate manner. Have you ever had a conversation with your boss or employee and walked away believing you were both on the same page?
Clear communication is essential when setting clear expectations. One time an employee sent a text message to their supervisor on a Friday afternoon requesting a day off from work for personal business. The supervisor did not respond. The employee then sent a text to the next in chain of command and the request was immediately granted. When the employee asked the supervisor the following week, the supervisor cited policy and indicated a text message was not acceptable communication for an attendance request. Leading up to that day, it was acceptable practice. However, the supervisor chose not to communicate this until after the fact. The supervisor missed the mark on setting clear expectations.
So when practice trumps policy, which wins? As much as policy is important and should guide practice, this doesn’t always happen. We all know policies exist because practice calls for it. In other words, policies aren’t just guidelines for what employees can and cannot do. They also contain processes and practices employees should follow to complete certain tasks or to be compliant. It is up to managers to ensure policy trumps practice. This is accomplished through clear communication.
Clear communication begins during the recruitment process. Effective communication looks like following up with all candidates, whether they move forward in the selection process or not. It looks like keeping managers in the loop on where new hires are in the onboarding process. Providing new hires with handbooks, policies, a parking map and a superb orientation experience are all ways of communicating.
So how do we know if our communication is effective? Ask. If someone has a quizzical or glazed-over look on their face, ask them to explain what you just told them. Don’t judge them if they weren’t paying attention or they just don’t get it. It happens. We are all guilty of zoning out during meetings and going over our grocery store list or thinking about hot to-do items still on our desk. And we all know the saying, “There never is a stupid question.” It’s true. When understanding is sought, both parties win. Besides, if you’re in a group meeting, there may be someone else with the same question. Look at you being the hero!
Second, be the hero again by allowing them to ask clarifying questions. Keep body language open to indicate you welcome the opportunity to clarify. Asking questions means they have been paying attention! Half the battle is won. Keep in mind being on the same page is key. Here’s the thing: it’s possible they may understand you completely yet their knowledge and experience is causing them to have reservations. Questions may be forming in their heads. This isn’t a bad thing. When we communicate, we solve problems, create ideas, and best of all…PROGRESS occurs.
Progress doesn’t always come without conflict. It is our job as HR professionals to mediate conflict stemming from miscommunication. Let’s face it: most conflict stems from miscommunication or complete lack of communication. When bringing parties together, it is important all voices are communicated and heard. It’s our job to also maintain a positive environment by encouraging respectfulness and assertive communication versus aggressive.
Authors of Managing Conflict Through Communication wisely counsel, “We need to express our feelings about the situation as specifically as possible and link them to behavior in some way.” This is done by first making an “I statement” that describes the problem behaviors. Then continue the statement by linking the consequences with goals. The result is parties understand one another better and can work toward resolution. This can be applied to your personal life with children, loved ones, and friends.
Think about Miss Othmar and how the students were clueless, looking around the room to see if anyone could decipher her. It could be her voice was monotonous, her content was uninspiring, or her students were in their own spaceship adventure. The point is, clear and effective communication doesn’t happen magically. You have to work at it with mindfulness remembering there are times when you may be the one communicating like Miss Othmar.
Abigail, R.A., Cahn, D.D. (2011). Managing conflict through communication (4th ed). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.
Creator: That makes me sound all powerful. I suppose I am in many ways. Hi! My name's Amy and I've been practicing HR for twelve years now. No big deal. I am here to offer fresh perspective on HR topics and topics about the world we live in and life in general.