There are myriad ways to communicate in today’s workplaces. Unfortunately, many employees seem to prefer one means of communication over others, regardless of the circumstances. In addition, it has been my experience, as an employer, that most employees are not perceptive enough to discern, on their own and without frequent prompting, that “the boss” usually has a preferred communication style that may be quite different from the employees’ styles. For example, in our small office environment, I have always preferred to communicate by speaking, in person, face to face, with my employees. If I have something to say that does not require written documentation, I get out of my chair, walk to the employee’s work station, and discuss what is on my mind with him/her. There is much to be said about personal communication! On the other hand, if I need to have a written record of a request, if the request is multi part, and/or if my partner needs to be informed about what I have asked an employee to do, I send an email to everyone who needs to be involved in performing my request. Other requests, of a simple and quick nature, can be handled by picking up the telephone. The primary point when communicating is to let the purpose of the communication dictate the manner in which the communication takes place. There is not “one size that fits all” when it comes to communicating, particularly with one’s supervisor (or, in my case, the owner of the company).
Another issue I have observed is employees, especially the youngest ones, being reluctant to pick up a telephone and make a call. Sometimes that is what should be done – it is the expedient choice, but it appears many people have learned to prefer one way communication via email. Email takes away the give and take offered by in person or telephonic communications. In addition, it is important to learn to use communications methods effectively. For example, leaving a specific and detailed voice mail, repeating your telephone number, and speaking slowly and clearly are important when leaving a voice mail. A voice mail that merely says “call me” is rarely appropriate in a business environment. Similarly, there are times when an email, appropriately detailed, is the best way to communicate. Sometimes, using both an email and voice message in combination is most effective – for one thing this gives the recipient the opportunity to respond in a way most convenient to him or her. Too often we have seen (mostly younger) employees say, “I left a message” or “I sent an email” but yet nothing has been accomplished. They perceive their 1 communication attempt as adequate, but this approach creates a roadblock to success. Especially, when an issue is time sensitive, a multi prong approach is usually the most effective way to get the job done. Finally, there are things that should not be handled by email in particular. I have had applicants ask, via email, about salary and benefits, even before being offered a position. But, worse than that is resigning by email. I’ve had 2 employees resign via brief emails; 1 of them was sitting 10-12 feet away from me when he resigned via email! Shocking! These former employees both failed to understand there are long term implications of such actions, for example, obtaining a positive job reference when applying for another position. Burning bridges is rarely a smart move.
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