Don't lose the message by over-communicating

If you think you're a good communicator because you communicate everything, you're wrong. Here are ways to ensure the right message gets across in the right way.

Anyone who reads this blog on a regular basis knows that I'm constantly pushing for more communication in the workplace.

I want to amend that standpoint a bit. Communication can work wonders for productivity and efficiency if it's the right kind of communication. The wrong kind of communication does nothing but gum up the works.

The wrong kind of communication

It's like a spin on the Boy Who Cried Wolf story. The little boy in the story was always trying to fool the village people to come to his rescue by yelling, "Wolf!" when there was no wolf. But when the real thing arrived and he yelled, no one took him seriously.

In the case of the workplace, the equivalent to that little boy is the coworker who communicates EVERYTHING and subsequently and unknowingly conditions people to ignore it, even the important stuff. This happens a lot now with all the email and voice mail we all have to deal with.

Some people over-share because they don't want anyone to accuse them of not supplying needed information. The problem is those people can't discern between information that is needed and information that is superfluous and just gets in the way. It's important, in order to be a good communicator, to know what information to share. Because, let's face it, there's nothing worse than getting stacks of statistic-laden emails about a tech roll-out but then not actually getting an email when the roll-out is happening.

The right kind of communication

Ask yourself if the information you're getting ready to email to everyone will honestly impact their jobs. Does everyone on the Receipt list, for example, have to know that you're congratulating a fellow employee on a promotion? Or is it really only important to the person you're congratulating? Does everyone in your mailing list really need to know that you'll be out of the office four weeks from Wednesday?

Is there some information you have or some action you're about to take that may impact others? Run through the dominoes of work roles in your mind and discern who will need to know, who will not, and what part of the information is relevant.

Consider your audience

Particularly if you're addressing a large group of people, be as brief as possible. For some people, even if you're announcing the day the world will end, and you take a long, drawn-out time to say it, they're going to lose interest. And if they lose interest, they don't get the information. Stay on the path to the point.

There will be people in the groups you address who want all the details. If that's the case, offer to follow up later with those details. In other words, provide details on a need-to-know basis.


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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