Effective Communication: A Two-Way Street for Managers and Employees ...
Updated: Mar 20
It's important to understand that effective communication works in both directions – it is two-way traffic. Such communication can involve manager-to-employee and employee-to-manager perspectives. Once a clear communication channel between yourself and your employees is established, the two approaches automatically fall into place.
The manager-to-employee perspective is how you get your messages across to your employees. At the same time, the employee-to-manager approach is how you facilitate your employee's ability to communicate with you effectively.
This means, to communicate effectively, you should not be only focused on sending your message across to your employees. Still, it would help if you also were concerned about hearing out your employee's viewpoint on the matter.
Come to think of it; there is no harm in saying that a manager should dominate every aspect of their work life while dealing with and handling affairs, including proper communication.
If the manager wants to facilitate effective communication within their domain, two essential factors must be considered:
Let's look at the open communication
Often, organizations publicly claim to have mastered the art of open and honest communication culture. They may even have plenty of policy documents that supposedly determine a policy of open and honest communication. Some may even organize periodic seminars and workshops to that effect. Unfortunately, only very few organizations let a culture of open communication flourish within their offices.
Due to a lack of open communication, any organization can face significant productivity and motivation consequences, usually notably affected. As a manager, even if you are a big supporter of openness in communication and want your employees to adopt the culture, your actions need to speak louder than your words. None of the employees will be willing to share ideas, offer opinions, or ask questions on important issues if they are not satisfied with your stand on openness.
There is this story about one Johnny Simpson (not a real name). Johnny Simpson was the manager of the IT department of a big company in downtown California. Last February, Simpson was instructed by the company's executives to design an in-house communication application for the entire company. He had the option of creating a custom-made application for the company or can suggest any ready-made application in the market which could do the job effectively. Simpson pondered over both ideas and was convinced to build a custom-made application that would be best for the company's in-house communication and ensure security as well. He met the company's executives and told them about his excellent idea for an app in the pipeline. He said to them that he would ask his team to build an app that would accommodate all the features the executives had requested, meet the company's requirements, and more. The executives were excited about the plan and subsequently approved it.
However, Simpson had not been the ideal manager that promoted open communication. Simpson, who was quite an intelligent technical guy, brushes off the majority of opinions brought to him by his employees even before they get a chance to explain thoroughly.
Whenever he comes up with a strategy to solve any IT problem, irrespective of whatever is brought to him by his employees, he always continues with his plan even if the solution offered can be helpful. He loves this attribute and brags about it to his fellow manager that he is a decisive person who is consistent with his decisions.
Unfortunately, on this particular occasion, Simpson made the wrong call. There were better and more cost-effective ready-made solutions available in the market to use. Nonetheless, the employees were too afraid to speak up and offer their opinion. Johnson from the design team, who tried to three months back, was blatantly ignored and given the "Mr. know-it-all" treatment. Simpson went ahead with his plan and built the in-house application. Unfortunately for him, sensitive documents shared between company executives on the app leaked due to a security breach.
In this case, the mistake happened due to a lack of knowledge, not believing in his team members, no open communication, and no discussion on the solution. Moreover, the company spent quite a lot of money to keep the app operational. The upper management didn't take this well, and an enquiry was set up. It was soon revealed that there were far better options available. After this incident, Simpson works as a salesman for a cat food company, and someone else has taken his position.
Nowadays, we have organizations where many problems develop because employees are reluctant to voice their disagreement with the management's decision because of fear of the consequences. Many managers show that they believe that openness should prevail but never pay any mind to that. Organizations wear "openness" as an accessory and use it to gain better public relations.
At the same time, managers discourage the transmission of differing opinions within the teams. As a result, team members avoid offering their take on even the most critical issues. They try to avoid voicing their concerns as much as possible. So, employees follow whatever their managers tell their managers even when they are convinced that there are other better ways to tackle the issue. As a manager, you may find openness a little bit complicated to adapt, but there is no replacement for it in the workplace.
Most organizations today need much improvement if they allow the flow of open communication. With the help of open communication, creativity and innovativeness will prevail, which is a vital element in the workplace. Without creating a space for open communication, you, as a manager, are concealing ideas and opinions which may enable you to perform better. As a manager, you may take specific actions that your employees will use to determine your attitude. A few of them are as follows:
Ignoring your employees – refusing to listen to their opinions or ideas on issues makes them feel ignored and unvalued in the organization. As a result, they won't be keen to communicate with you on issues.
Being unresponsive – even when you listen to your employees but don't take any action or consider giving them feedback on the issues, your employees will feel ignored. They will think that you are not taking them seriously and have no interest in their opinions or ideas.
Being condescending – nothing demoralizes an employee more than looking down on them when they speak up on any issue. As a manager, irrespective of how versed you are on a subject, you need to appreciate the efforts of your employees and encourage them. Even if you're convinced that their ideas or suggestions are not as great as you would like them to be, saying that their opinion is terrible is not the right thing to do. On the other hand, offering constructive criticism or polite disapproval will give them confidence and not embarrassment.
Being confrontational – if the employees offer a differing or contrasting view, you need to handle it calmly. Instantly being mad at the employees can give rise to retaliation. Employees managed by a short-tempered manager are less likely to voice their concerns or share their decision-making input.
The essence of this article is that open communication should be discussed and should also be implemented across the organization. This will enable you to hear different opinions and perspectives from your employees, which might broaden your vision on various issues.
As for your employees, they will feel like their voices are heard and will be motivated to bring better, more innovative ideas so they can get recognized by their managers. The flow of open communication develops a culture of honesty and encourages the employees to perform better.