By Lindsey Anderson, CPA
Manager, Tax Services
We’ve all had a communication breakdown, whether it was an email battle, a text-off or a brief, uncomfortable in-person encounter in passing. As alternative forms of communications have become more acceptable in the workplace, the risk of misunderstanding and perceived conflict is heightened. Information can easily get lost in translation and unnecessary anxieties are created. How do you avoid these misunderstandings in a workplace?
First, establish a strong sense of trust across all departments. Trust encompasses honesty, integrity and respect. TRUST must exist both vertically and horizontally within your sphere of influence. As a leader, you need to walk the talk. Don’t just say you care about your team members. Go up to their desk and ask how they’re doing — sincerity is the key here; shallow attempts will be apparent and defeating. If they seem to have a case of the Mondays, cheer them up with a joke or funny anecdote. Be careful with humor though. You don’t want to miss their funny bone and hit them the wrong way.
The point is that trust leads to open, earnest communication. Another way to avoid breakdowns is to choose the right medium for your message. You’ll want to favor effective communication over efficient communication. While it may be more comfortable and convenient to fire off an email, it’s probably better to walk across the office and have a chat. The tone of an email or text can be easily misunderstood, in various unintended ways.
Always have a conflict resolution model in mind. Maybe before you establish a disagreement in cyberspace, you should keep the matter down to earth and have a face-to-face conversation. You might end up realizing you’re closer in agreement than you initially thought and discover the subject of conflict was sourced with a simple misunderstanding
Despite having the luxury of time to communicate largely in writing these days, we have a habit of sending knee-jerk responses. Maybe ponder your response for 24 hours before sending. Another helpful hint is to draft out your response, wait 24 hours, reread your draft response and challenge yourself if the draft response is still appropriate.
Behind a keyboard, you have the privilege of being able to take a breath, process your thoughts and communicate in the clearest way possible — heck, you have a dictionary, thesaurus and spellcheck at your disposal as well! Take advantage of those tools, and if they’re not working for you, you still have the old-fashioned but reliable face-to-face talk.