Steve Tobak, a blogger I admire, recently wrote a piece for MoneyWatch that outlined seven modern workplace myths. The one myth he mentioned that I had an issue with is:
Myth #2: We need more communication. He said:
Sure, communication is as important to business success and organizational effectiveness as it used to be. There's just too much of it. Workplace communication has so jumped the shark. The old problem of protecting domains by limiting the flow of information has morphed into a new problem of hyper-collaboration where everybody's included in everything. Communication overload has reached epidemic proportions and it's killing precious productivity and effectiveness.
I have to take issue with that statement. I think there are way too many ways of communicating — of putting out there what we think — but real communication, which I think of as a two-way street, is in short supply.
We all know those people who will tweet to the general population about 800 times a day with their favorite quotes or their latest brainstorms about Lady Gaga but who would rather have their eyeballs rolled in pepper than reply to an email with an answer to a question or give the people they work with a heads-up on some changes coming down the pike. So, yeah, I think there are a lot of words and pixels being tortured in the name of communication, but I'm not sure much of it is helpful.
Now, I'm with Steve completely that there's a problem with overcollaboration — in the sense that too many people are included in every initiative and decision that comes to pass. Because of that, you get 72 people scrunched around a conference table, eager to be noticed, bringing up every godforsaken detail that could possibly be imagined, 98% of which will never be relevant in the long run. Nonproductive? Sure.
My guess is that the principals are thinking, "I am physically incapable of passing this information on to anyone else who should know, so I'll invite everyone with a pulse to be there, so I won't have to! Plus, people will get the illusion that their opinions matter. It's a win/win!"
The fact is, communication methods are more numerous, but real communication is close to extinction. That's my opinion anyway.
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.