Project Management

Corporate contagion: Read-My-Mind syndrome

Despite having a million devices at their disposal, corporate employees still can't seem to communicate information to each other.

A few years ago in this blog, I discussed a state of mind that I felt was infecting the modern workplace like nobody's business: Alone in the World Syndrome. (Basically, it's the inability to perceive how your actions affect others.)

Since that writing, there has been an infectious offshoot of that disease: I call it Read-My-Mind disorder.

Here's how I came to see this disorder firsthand: I was doing some hiring recently for new writers for the site. I got an excellent response — over 100 people responded and an extremely high percentage of them were highly qualified. Almost everyone responded with an explanation of their credentials and the reasons they thought they would be a good fit. But one guy (and one guy out of a hundred ain't bad) simply sent me his resume and said, "Take a look and see where I would fit in at TechRepublic."

Now, when someone is in the middle of responding to an avalanche of email inquiries (and especially if said person is grouchy to begin with), the last thing she wants to do is look over your resume to pick out clues as to where your interests lie. You're the one who wants to be chosen/hired. Don't make me work so hard.

But this by no means was an isolated incident. Every day there are examples of Read-My-Mind syndrome. From end-users who get angry at developers because they failed to add a desired feature, even though no one bothered to communicate that beforehand, to developers who make changes to an internal app and then seem surprised when end-users didn't expect them.

A friend of mine is currently working in Read-My-Mind hell. He is constantly surprised by new initiatives that, all of a sudden, need his input despite his having no inkling of them beforehand. Even though his boss is in on several meetings leading up to the project, she never bothered to pass the information on to him. She just expected, I guess, for him to — you got it — read her mind.

It's totally ironic to me that with a bazillion communication devices at our disposal, people still can't manage to communicate. It's kind of a childish mind-set to think that just because you're utterly consumed with a project that the knowledge of it will magically swirl around corners (and even across the country) and osmose into the minds of everyone who has a stake in it.

I suppose that's why formal project management disciplines enforce status updates — because some people don't have the common sense to pass on information naturally.


Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

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