Can You Hear Me Now?

BY C. Lee Smith
Featured image for “Can You Hear Me Now?”

Has there ever been a time when so many methods of communication were available in the workplace? Likely not. And yet, with all of the tools out there, people still don't hear each other. Managers need to find common ground among their team members to improve communication and commitment. Devine Hewson, CPC and Mark Lund, M.D., CPC, co-​founders and principals of Twin Lights Consulting, advised listeners on how to improve office communications during a recent Manage Smarter podcast.

Tools to Bridge the Generational Divide

You may be addicted to email as your primarily communication tool. And then, you find out that younger team members aren't reading your email messages. In fact, they might not read email more than once a week. The truth, is younger employees are more comfortable with office chat tools or texting. 

Don’t jump to the conclusion that your millennial or Gen Y team members are dissing you. They may just be accustomed to interacting differently with bosses and co-​workers. To fully engage team members, ask them which way they prefer to communicate.

While you can certainly change your communication style and use office chat, don’t be afraid to do things the old-​fashioned way when necessary. If your online chat session isn’t resolving a matter, walk down to the team member’s workstation and talk face to face. Younger workers might not prefer these kinds of chats, but they need to realize that face-​to-​face communication allows them to pick up on nonverbal cues.

Break Down Barriers

In some workplaces, older team members may resent the younger workers. They remember, sometimes incorrectly, that they struggled to move up the corporate ladder. As a result, they expect younger workers to show deference. That attitude won’t do much for team building.

In breaking down communications barriers, focus on the fact that every team member has something to offer. Senior employees understand industry history and may have polished communication skills. Junior employees want a chance to prove themselves. They’re eager. They want to learn. And they are hoping someone will mentor them. At the same time, they certainly bring tech savviness to the table.

Show Your Vulnerability

One way to get your team members to improve communications is to encourage them to “listen to understand.” All too often, we think we know what someone is going to say. We prejudge them and never internalize the message they are trying to communicate. To fix that problem, Hewson and Lund encourage managers to show vulnerability in a group setting. Once you admit your weakness, maybe it’s that you've been in too much of a hurry to listen, your team members see you as human. And when you tell them you’re working on improving yourself, they see you as a leader they want to support.