August 02, 2011
Successful Communication in Sticky Work Situations
The workplace can be a communication minefield -- one verbal misstep can lead to a career-damaging explosion. And no matter what field you're in, people skills can help you move ahead. We asked communication expert Jodi Glickman, the author of "Great on the Job: What to Say, How to Say It. The Secrets of Getting Ahead," for some tips:
Monster: What's the most common communication mistake people make at work -- in other words, what’s one crucial thing that I should probably be doing differently?
Jodi Glickman: When you’ve got a problem, tell it to me live; don’t hide behind email. No good ever comes of sending someone a nasty note, voicing a complaint online, or arguing a point via email. When something goes wrong, get up out of your seat and go to your boss’s office to raise the issue, or pick up the phone and have a tough conversation live -- so that you can explain your position and give your colleague a chance to voice his or her opinion as well.
Back-and-forth conversation solves problems -- not one-way emails that force people to read between the lines or guess at hidden meaning. Tone and tenor get lost in email, and people often misinterpret information without additional context.
Monster: Have the rules of communication changed with changes in technology, or do all the old rules still apply?
JG:The old rules still apply. Technology makes our lives easier and allows us to be better connected -- but we still need to build trust and credibility via face-to-face interactions. Even in our high-tech, smart-phone-addicted world, we actually need to be able to talk to one another effectively and persuasively. If you want to make a good impression, ask if someone has a minute to speak before barging into their office. When you’re giving someone an update, lead with the punch line and start with what’s new, different, or important so that you grab their attention immediately. If you spot a problem coming down the pipeline, raise a red flag as quickly as possible -- no one appreciates surprises in business.
Monster: How do you suggest that people communicate poise and confidence in high-pressure situations -- such as a difficult job interview, for instance?
JG: The best approach is to remind yourself that the person across the desk is rooting for you. If you go in knowing that they want you to be great -- you’ll rise to the challenge. Interviewers are looking for talent, and they get excited about a candidate who is exceptional. They’re not looking to waste their time either, so make the conversation interesting. Keep your energy level up, focus on your skill-set, show how it’s transferrable to the new position, and come from a position of strength.
Monster: What is the best way to tell my boss that I’ve made a big mistake or can’t do something -- how do I avoid damaging my career too badly?
JG: Everyone makes mistakes -- the key is to highlight them early, and then focus on the solution rather than the problem. Tell me immediately what happened and why. And then, in the same breath, tell me how you’re fixing the problem or give me several alternatives that might work. Coming to me with a solution is far more effective (and impressive) than coming in with a problem and asking me to fix it.
If you can’t do something and you need to push back -- be transparent. Tell your boss that you’d like to work on the project, but that you’re tied up with X, Y, and Z and you have no capacity. Then offer several solutions of what you can do instead. Offer a few ideas of ways to work around problem and show that you're enthusiastic about coming up with a compromise that works for everyone.
Monster: What do you mean when you say (in your book) that it’s better to be smart and wrong than just silent?
JG: The question “What should I do?” should never leave your lips. It makes you look smart when you approach your manager with an opinion and a sense of what to do, as opposed to asking for outright guidance. So if you’re asking your manager for help or guidance, start with what you do actually know. Show that you’re smart by putting your stake in the ground and having an idea of what you think the right answer or best course of action is. Show that you’ve put some thought and judgment into the situation and then find out if you two are on the same page. You’re better off being wrong and showing that you indeed have judgment than showing up looking lazy or not willing to try and solve your own problems.
What are your communication tips? Share your thoughts in the Comments section.
TrackBack URL for this entry:
Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Successful Communication in Sticky Work Situations:
I appreciate that focuses on taking action rather than waiting for guidance. As a resume writer one thing that really stands out with certain clients is their ability to move forward.
We will all make mis-steps along the way, but it is those who persevere who get hired / promoted/ etc.
Posted by: steveB | Aug 2, 2011 10:00:45 PM
I like the advice about not hiding behind e-mail. E-mail may be an easier way to write down your feedback or disapproval, but it can be so easily misinterpreted, and it's also a much slower way to resolve an issue.
Posted by: Eleanor | Aug 6, 2011 1:03:59 PM
The comments to this entry are closed.