One of the most common communication “mistakes” is actually the lack of communication. This happens so much and for so many different reasons in the workplace.
So, what are some of the reasons why we don’t communicate:
- I’ve not done what I should have done yet so I delay communicating
- What I have to say may create conflict and I’m uncomfortable with that
- Perhaps when I do update you, you won’t like or respect me as much
- I’m simply buying myself some time
- The results of my work are not what I’d hoped so I’m concerned about the reaction
- I’m so overwhelmed with details that I’m dropping some communication
- Perhaps I don’t realize how important feedback is to others
- If I don’t communicate it puts the onus on the other party and I’m counting on them also feeling uncomfortable with initiating hard conversations
How effective is this strategy?
For sure this works sometimes – we get away with stuff. Perhaps we buy ourselves some extra time or minimize the negative feedback we get. The fact that it seems to help at times definitely reinforces this pattern.
The choice to avoid feels like a lack of power but is actually a power position. It is classic passive aggressive in that it prevents the conversation from happening and forces the other party to make the hard choice to confront or put up with the lack of communication.
Perhaps you work with someone who has this as a fallback pattern for or perhaps it’s you.
What are some of the costs to this pattern?
* More frustration for the other people involved than if you had owned up to what was hard to say
* Trust is eroded in the relationship or on the team, resentment builds
* You may be considered inappropriate for promotion
* The conflict you have been trying to avoid ends up bigger by the time it gets discussed
* The difficult conversation is initiated by the other party possibly in ways and at times that are not ideal for you, making the conversation even harder
* Ultimately avoiding accountability can land you out of work or a relationship
How do we move forward then from a pattern of avoidance?
- Learning some conflict and communication skills really helps. Learning how to make difficult conversations not quite so difficult goes a long way. Out yourself – say where you fell short up front. It gets it over with and is easier to hear out of your own mouth than out of the moth of your boss or colleague!
- Practice. Notice the urge to avoid or be silent and take steps to speak up sooner, more often, in safer places at first.
- Build in some timelines to communicate on projects and deliverables ahead of time and lock them in your calendar. This works best when you build in update dates that are before the due date. This actually allows you to get help on time if your project is not going well.
- Apologize to the people you have impacted with this pattern and ask them to tell you how your pattern has impacted them. Tough but it will definitely help motivate you to do this less.
- Last but not least, get support – hire a coach, ask a colleague to help you, find a way to change this pattern. Once you do you will feel so much more empowered and will be so much more respected for doing so!
(Ps: This article was originally published by Marilyn R. Orr, and is being re-published with her permission)4 comments