Posted by: healingtheworkplace | June 22, 2013

Communicating about Communication

This month Deloitte published a report on the productivity of Canadian organizations. The results show that we lag behind most countries when it comes to productivity. Interestingly, Deloitte’s research shows that we are falling behind NOT because employees are lazy or take too much sick time.

Instead, we are falling behind because employers refuse to acknowledge the necessity of investing $ to provide the equipment and training that employees need to do their work effectively and efficiently.

The need for training often comes up in discussions about productivity and one of the big areas for concern in organizations large and small is poor communication.

When communication breaks down we are likely to experience,

– increased stress
– increased conflict
– increased mistakes
– decreased efficiency

Increased stress can lead to an increase in sick time or absenteeism.

Increased conflict leads to poor working relationships which can lead to a number of other things such as people with holding critical information from each other.

When people don’t have the right information or are stressed out mistakes are more likely to happen and all of this has a negative impact on productivity.

In these situations it is not uncommon for employers to decide that their employees need to learn how to communicate more effectively with each other – resulting in some form of communications skills training.

Of course this would be all well and good if in fact poor communication skills among employees is the main problem but in my experience the answer is never quite so simple. In fact teaching employees communication skills without really understanding the organization’s “meta-communications” is a recipe for disaster.

Wikipedia provides a nice description of “meta communication” but for our purposes let’s agree that “meta communication” is really “communicating about how we are communicating”.

If we were to examine an organization’s “meta communication” we might look at the following:

– How transparent the organization is when communicating important change initiatives
– How mobile devices are used (is everyone at the meeting focused more on their mobile devices than on what is going on in the room)
– How quickly people respond to emails, phone calls, or requests for information
– How likely people are to share information with one another
– How best to communicate with people throughout the organization

Unless you pay attention to your organization’s “meta communication” no amount of communications skills training is going to make a difference to your bottom line.

If you’re still in the dark as to why “meta communication” is so important try this game…it might help make things a little clearer!

There is a children’s game that is played all over the world. In this game one person whispers a message to another, which is passed through a line of people until the last player announces the message to the entire group. Errors typically accumulate in the retellings, so the statement announced by the last player differs significantly, and often amusingly, from the one uttered by the first. Reasons for changes include anxiousness or impatience, erroneous corrections, and that some players may deliberately alter what is being said in order to guarantee a changed message by the end of it.



  1. Nice Post

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