Working from the Inside Out
When thinking of a company organizational chart, it is similar to this:
All positions ultimately lead up to an executive member. The executive is considered the leader of the company because that role is in charge of most of the important decisions that affect the good of the company. However, a leader is not simply someone who is in charge of making decisions. A leader cannot lead without a team, and to maintain a team, a leader must know how to communicate with every individual. A leader must work well with colleagues, subordinates, and those outside of the organization. Leaders in all organizations, whether it be business, nonprofit, or a government agency, need to know how to communicate internally in order to communicate their messages externally. Employees who have experience with efficient communication in the office will be able to use these strategies when working with outside clients to ensure satisfactory customer service. Outside relations are a reflection of inside environments.
When managing a company or organization, it is crucial that associates are satisfied with their work. Obviously there will always be some sort of issue or complaint depending on the day, but employees should be content with coming to work each day. If there is an ongoing issue that prohibits work, and no one feels they can turn to anyone for help, the problem only increases in its burden. Leaders need to be attainable and willing to step in when necessary. Dr. John Klein discusses types of work cultures in his essay. A “dehumanizing culture” is one where employees are considered lazy and ineffective in the workplace. Their feedback to their superiors is either ignored or never brought up for fear of punishment. How productive can that culture actually be?
Possible solutions of fixing a dehumanizing cultures include opening the door to any and all employee feedback. No leader is so great that he or she does not need advice every once in a while, and good leaders will understand that. It is the leader’s responsibility that the office runs smoothly, and part of that responsibility is to take in account all employee viewpoints. Department meetings should be more than just “any questions or concerns?” Instead, a department could try out new methods of conducting meetings each week. Perhaps one member of the team will lead the meetings each week. This would give each associate a chance to discuss any feedback in a supportive setting. This method would give each employee more experience with leading, and would allow everyone to see what works well and what could be improved.
Leanne Glenny observes that in terms of government communications, “communication is no longer recognized as an act performed by one entity upon another. Participants are not considered as passive bystanders as their interpretations lead to the creation of meaning.” The idea of two-way communication is applied to all groups and is especially key in internal communications. A constant dialogue should be active in all workplaces to ensure all employees are on the same page.
Consider the following scenario:
A team in a company conducts an audit to see if each hired employee has all important paperwork completed and on file. The audit shows that there are key documents missing from a number of employees in both the main office and offices in the field, including some executives. These employees must be notified they have to complete these documents in a timely manner, but it is important for identities to be discreet in terms of privacy. The resolution is to send out an e-mail explaining the procedure to complete the paperwork, but to blind copy (Bcc) each employee on it so no one can see who else has received it. The e-mail is proofed, approved, and sent to the select employees. It only takes a minute for people to respond. Responses include “Was this meant to be sent to me?” “Was I supposed to be bcc’d on this?” “What was wrong with my paperwork in the first place?” “Can you explain further?”
What seemed like a simple solution actually created a whirlwind of confusion. There were good intentions behind the method of the e-mail, but the message was not correctly conveyed. The team must get together to work out how to better explain not only the content of the e-mail, but why they chose to blind copy everyone on it. A brief meeting results in a to-the-point explanation that is e-mailed to the employees, using bcc again to protect identity. The reason that new paperwork was required was explained as well as how the blind copy e-mail was the most efficient and discreet way to reach everyone. Again, people respond, but this time with varying forms of “Thank you for the clarification.” The team had to work through two solutions in order to solve the initial problem, but the result showed that everyone had a mutual understanding on what needed to be done. This process will also require a number of follow-up e-mails until each employee has completed the paperwork. Communication takes work!
During my internship there were times when e-mails or phone calls were sufficient for certain tasks, and other times when it was best to physically go to another employee’s office. Interpersonal communication is a great strategy to connect with employees, if done correctly. Advantages of interpersonal communications include being able to fully explain instructions and providing immediate clarification if needed. Many times e-mails may unintentionally convey the wrong message or tone. It is important to remember that when communicating face-to-face with others, vulnerabilities such as facial expressions or body language may hinder the meaning. The best way to have effective interpersonal communication is for both parties to share a mutual respect for each other and the organization. A relaxed environment in which employees are listening with intent to understand by maintaining eye contact and having a pleasant attitude will promote effective communication. Offices are busy, but when working with people it is important to create opportunities to treat them like people.
Communication makes all the difference in completing tasks, and the more communication that takes place, the more a company will improve as a whole.
A quote to leave you with that was sent to me from an expert communicator and leader:
“Make a careful list of the things done to you that you absolutely hated, that demotivated you. never do those to others…ever. Now, make a careful list of the things that motivated and inspired you. Do those with others…always…without fail.” -Dee Hock.