Leader Volume 8, Number 11
of Management Communication
Walinskas is a professional engineer, speaker and freelance writer
in Dallas, Pennsylvania, who owns and operates a communications
development company, The Speaking Connection www.SpeakingConnection.com.
Two days ago I
came home from the office feeling invigorated and alive.
Five minutes talking with my wife changed all that.
Don’t misunderstand, it’s not that I don’t like
talking with my wife. She
was upset because of what happened to her at work, and after
hearing about it, I was a bit miffed as well.
My wife works at
a part-salary, part-commission job selling advertising for a local
publication. She left
for the office that day anticipating the biggest commission check
of her career. Before
going to work that morning, she was salivating like one of
Pavlov’s famous pooches. Upon picking up her check, she found it a bit light and did
some investigating. As
it turned out, the big guy had changed the commission plan
overnight without telling the sales associates.
Commissions for year-long ad campaigns would now be paid at
the end of the year, when all money was collected, rather than
now, when the ads were sold. Now be careful, I am not judging the validity of this
commission plan. There
may be perfectly valid reasons for the change, but think about the
way it was handled. Nobody
who was affected was told in advance that this would happen or was
even under consideration.
“Wait a second,
there, big mouth,” you may be thinking, “if you tell the
salespeople this kind of stuff in advance, they’ll just whine
and cry and try to stop it from happening.”
You’re probably right.
Let me ask you this: How much work do you think anybody at
the publication got done the day they found out about the
commission plan changes? I’m
not just talking about the salespeople.
If I spent an hour talking about it eight or nine hours
after the fact, you can bet that anybody within earshot of a
peeved salesperson got their fill too--on company time.
What’s worse, now your workforce feels betrayed, and may
even sabotage the company effort to work off their frustrations.
You’ve traded a small, manageable problem for a major
headache. You decide.
This brings up
rule number one. Whether
you’re dealing with salespeople, floor-sweepers or doctors,
anytime you as a manager need to make a decision that affects
people’s lives, tell them well in advance.
At work, this usually affects the pocketbook or the
Oh, by the way,
this isn’t an isolated example.
I consulted with a company of over six hundred employees
where management changed the long-standing Christmas bonus plan
without telling the minions until they received their checks.
Many people received hundreds less than they were
expecting, most of which was already spent on Uncle Ed’s new tie
and a fruitcake for cousin Zelda.
Hundreds of people were not working while complaining about
this breach of faith, and I, an hourly paid consultant, spent
extra time hearing about this event rather than working on the
project I was hired for.
communication problem that will come back to bite managers and
supervisors is miscommunication, being misinterpreted.
When I want my dog to do something, I give her simple,
one-syllable commands. “Bear,
sit!” “Bear, stay!” “Bear,
come!” Extra words
lead to miscommunication. Some
managers use this approach when asking employees to do things,
thinking that the less said the better.
beings aren’t dogs. We
shower daily, don’t have tails to wag, and don’t blindly obey.
The human mind is always striving to find the answer to the
can’t help it; it’s in our nature.
Look at what happened in the Vietnam War, where
soldiers--the most disciplined, regimented, and order-following
breed of American citizen--often struggled because they were
unsure of their mission, their purpose.
A second rule of
communication then, for those in authority, is to provide
sufficient information for the employee to answer, “Why?”
Many organizations are now considering a relatively new
philosophy called Open Book Management for this very reason. Lack of information often causes more problems than divulging
those deep, dark company secrets.
Let the worker, complaining about his last meager pay
raise, see where the company’s money went, that expenses may
have risen and that profits were down.
This will drive an improvement in performance more often
than not. Even if
your business is completely ethical you may have good reasons not
to share everything with employees; just provide them with enough
information that allows them to draw similar conclusions if they
were in your position.
non-verbal communication? I’m
not talking here about tone of voice and hand gestures, although
that stuff is critical for effective communication.
I’m referring to a more global aspect of management
communication that I’ll simply call congruency.
This is where you walk the talk of your message--the third
rule. Oh how
important this is to implementing those pesky, new management
will notice in seconds if your actions belie your message.
The boss who tries to convince his people how important
dedication to the job is and then is seen leaving the office at
noon every Friday in the summer carrying his golf clubs is not
very persuasive or effective.
This doesn’t mean you have to do everything your
employees do, after all, you’re the boss.
You manage; they produce.
It simply means that you absolutely must show that if
it’s important enough for them to do, it’s important enough
for you to support.
three things that managers should be aware of when communicating
with subordinates. First,
if your message affects people where they live and breathe, get it
out sooner rather than later.
Second, if you want workers to follow through on the stuff
you give them to do, provide the reason why.
Lastly, act congruently with the message that you project.
Be aware of these
three rules of thumb and you’ll go a long way to sailing a
smoother, more effective company ship.