IT Employment

The trickle-down theory of communication

With all the means of communication available to people, some still don't know how to use them to convey information.

It is the strangest contradiction, but it seems like the more means of communication available to corporate workers, the poorer the communication is. And I'm not talking about IM abbreviations.

I'm going to take it upon myself to name a disorder for this: Delusions of Communication Syndrome.

Delusions of Communication Syndrome occurs when a subject has an email conversation with someone, or maybe a small in-person meeting with a few people, wherein something, let's say Project X, is discussed. Then at a later time, the subject, with a totally different audience, mentions Project X and expects those people to know exactly what he or she is referring to.

The delusion arises when the person thinks that once the term "Project X" has been sent into the atmosphere as a text or email or verbal utterance to a few select people, it will disseminate into airborne molecules that will travel around and diffuse into the blood brain barrier of every living mammal in the building.

Maybe it's a disease of the larger corporation. So many people have so many meetings that they forget who they've spoken to over the course of a few days. I've been there. I've attended meetings that have blurred my mental facilities to Kardashian proportions. But I've learned you have to make an effort to think of everyone who might have a stake in -- in this case, Project X -- when it's first mentioned, and make sure they're in the loop.

I can't tell you how many times I've been on an email thread and heard a term used as though it's the most common noun in the universe. My immediate reaction is that I have somehow blanked out a series of informational meetings. But then afterwards, I'll ask four other people on the email thread, and no one else knows what the term is either. But none of us had the nerve to come out and ask what the heck the others were talking about for fear of looking like an idiot.

The next time you're in a meeting and information is discussed that other people should have knowledge of, don't take the easy way out and assume it will get around to them. Brainstorm at the end of meeting who should have the info, and then make an effort to provide it in email or in person.

About

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.

9 comments
Nikhil Kutty
Nikhil Kutty

We once had a mailer from HR asking for nominations for a certain training. Being org wide, the mail went out to 4000 odd employees. Some bloke decided a reply all was the ideal way to respond (and MailAdmin also decided to allow replyalls to pass on through to the entire group!). Then started the madness. People started "replying-all" asking others to stop replying-all (yes! without out realizing they were pretty much doing the same darn thing!). At one point we even had some upper ups joining in the mail slinging. It was an hour and Gigabytes of bandwidth wasted before some smart admin decided to pull the plug on the email server....... So much for common sense.This wasnt a trickle down it was a deluge!.. and yes about ccs..... the HR head was cced pretty much in every one of those mails... god bless her email client

Riaanh
Riaanh

I have also noticed that if any e-mail is more than 5 sentences, then it is not read. People do not read e-mails, they scan them.

dale.danell
dale.danell

"CC everybody and their dog" is a rather useful principle, should you question who might use the information. There is a special button on nearly every keyboard labeled "Delete". It is actually quite easy to use.....

2bczar4u
2bczar4u

Then there is the 'I will cc the world on everything that is going on and attach every communication there every was on this subject every time I send it out'. Sheesh, I don't know if people are just lazy when it comes to looking where, what and how they send commmunications (namely emails) or if it is just their own CYA practices. I get return emails with subjects that have absolutely nothing to do with the content because my name just happened to be on that email or a subject that is so vague that it can apply to the 10 other emails I get with the same vague subject '..... voice mail.....'. I spend a fair amount of time just redoing subject lines and filing so I know where everything is. Then someone will come along and go 'how come you didn't respond to XXXX email' - one in the long line of vague or over bulky useless content emails that I was somehow supposed to know that there was a question in there somewhere for me. All this can become a full time job or you can just start to ignore most of them because you can't handle the 'over communication'.

No one special
No one special

My boss reports directly to our grand leader, a visionary who often has very strong opinions on things he has no expertise on. Our grand leader meets weekly with many of my fellow department heads, but not me. (I'll spare you the history that has led to this.) And in these meetings they often discuss all sorts of things outside the realm of the department's scope, things such as the organization's website, which is under my jurisdiction. So one day we arrange a meeting for me to demonstrate the incredible functionality of our new CMS website, only to find myself ambushed by several of these coworkers and our grand leader. "We've been complaining about the website for two years!" he later said to me in private. Yeah, it turns out he had. But never once to me.

aidemzo_adanac
aidemzo_adanac

No Toni, it's rampant everywhere. We have a serious issue with select or partial communication or, as you deem it, DoCS. I work for a smaller company, I report to the owner directly and manage a small team. The problem I face is one where SOME people are in on a change but not all. As a seasoned sales rep, I can't even get them to hold weekly sales meetings. I have them with my own team to keep them on track and help me manage the pipeline but nothing else. To top it off, English is not the first language of the owner or some of the administrative staff. While I don't have any issue at all with people's nationality, it does create some interesting 'misunderstandings' with email correspondence, and even speaking face to face. Back to topic: A few weeks ago, my satellite card in my notebook stopped working, while I was on the road and had two demos to do! I gave it to our tech, not allowed to troubleshoot anything myself of course, and he said it had been disabled, as per the bosses recommendation. Gee, would have been nice to know before looking like a knob at customer sites! He decided it would be fine for me to use my phone and tether it as a modem (we have a Peer2 network so bandwidth usage is irrelevant). I think it would be important that I had been informed of this great change, instead of just a tech. NO? Last week, new collateral materials were created, which really irks me as I am SO VERY PICKY when it comes to my collateral materials. As a copy writer and sales manager I am very specific about layouts, wording etc. Just shifting a sentence a space or two makes a difference to me! It wasn't reviewed before being sent out and, by the time I got a copy, I was astounded to find three typos and an incomplete sentence, the wrong form of a word used, 'THERE instead of THEIR' etc. I ran to the marketing department and asked them to stop the presses and get it fixed before sending it out but it was too late, 2300 copies to our top clients! Of course, when questioned, the person responsible said she sent it to me to be checked as well as another manager in our office. No email had left her mailbox or entered either of ours. I have worked for companies where people are copied that had no need to be, but better safe than sorry. To work for one where copying employees on email or even SENDING email to begin with is not a consideration, just makes life SO frustrating! Big or small, any company can have these communication issues. In my case its a simple lack of consideration.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

opening multiple mails to determine if there's anything you need within. This is why I love Outlook 2010's new 'Ignore' feature. It autodeletes any incoming messages with the same subject.

toni.bowers_b
toni.bowers_b

Over-communication and that's a problem in and of itself. I think it is sort of a CYA thing ("You can't say I didn't let you know. It was in sentence 47 of that tome email I sent you")

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

I've sent emails asking for multiple actions from other shops. I learned to put the most critical items last because the recipients inevitably latch onto the critical action and ignore anything that comes afterwards.