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Unclear Equals Unkind

I don’t understand my employees! It’s just hard to find good people these days.

It is certainly true that you may need to have better team members. I recommend that you prioritize doing what it takes to get the right people. However, if you are frustrated with the work ethic and response of the people you have, it might be that your communication is unclear.

Most people fail to communicate clearly. All of us have been conditioned to couch our communication with social pleasing which obscures and blurs the message. Using “being nice” as the excuse, people don’t say what they mean. Without clear communication, assumptions and expectations are created with no true agreement.

For example, consider the following scenario:

As the manager, you know that next week is going to be extremely busy. You need all hands on-deck. Based on the projected workload, there will be some long days. In the past, when overtime has been required, the grumbling starts, and morale drops. You gather the troops, and with a nice smile and soft apologetic tone of voice, you make this appeal:

“Next week is going to be quite busy, and I would appreciate it if some of you will step up, try to be a little more focused, and if anyone is willing to work some extra hours to help out, it would be appreciated. I feel bad when this happens and hope some of you can step up and help out.”

That, my friend, is lousy communication. It might cause a few people to try a little harder out of guilt, but will likely produce a minimal response. What will occur is you will be disappointed and resent your team for not stepping up. The rotten fruit of unclear communication is guilt, expectations, assumptions, frustrations, and resentment. Unclear equals unkind.

Consider this alternate approach:

“I appreciate all of you and your hard work. Next week is going to be quite busy, and I know our team is up for the challenge. Here’s what’s going to happen. Immediately after this meeting, I will be speaking with each of you to set up a modified schedule next week including overtime. If we work together and handle things efficiently, we may not have to work over every day, but you need to plan to be here an extra two hours each day if needed. I understand that some of you may be able to come in early, and some may be able to stay late, so I will work with each of you to work out the specifics. I really appreciate each of you, and know you will rise to meet this challenge”

This communication is immediately followed by meeting with each team member to work out a clear agreement for their personal schedule for the week. No expectations. No assumptions. No wishing and hoping. Instead, you create a clear agreement with each person for a specific response. That is clear, and that is kind.

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