Clear Communication Eliminates Fear

Clear Communication Eliminates Fear

by elainesuess

On a recent Tuesday, a supervisor sent his employee an instant message, asking to meet with him at the end of the following day. The employee replied that he could meet at that time.

Two views:

The supervisor was very happy with the employee. The employee was doing well and the supervisor wanted to check in with the him to discuss a project. They hadn’t met together for a few weeks because the supervisor had canceled their one-on-one meetings because he was in negotiations with a long-time client and especially busy.

Screen Shot 2015-08-24 at 10.42.34 AM

The employee was nervous. He and the supervisor had not had their one-on-one meetings for a few months. Each time their scheduled meetings came up, the supervisor cancelled them. The employee was starting to worry that the supervisor was not happy with his performance because of the cancelled meetings, lack of interaction and interest about his main project which was not going as well as he would like.

The supervisor was looking forward to catching up with the employee and giving him positive feedback about the important project he was working on.

The employee thought the reason for the meeting might be to fire him.

Does this scenario seem unlikely?

It is not. On more than one occasion, clients have shared a similar scenario with me. 

Supervisor simply wants to talk to employee.  Employee thinks he/she is getting negative news, or even being fired.

Clear and Regular Communication

How important then is clear and regular communication–not just between employee and supervisor — but across teams?

When it comes to communication, we all tend to fill in the blanks. Quite often, we fill them in with erroneous information based on our experiences and beliefs. We also send and receive information through our own filters. Research shows that even an email that would be considered as “neutral” is often seen as “negative.”

So, how might you improve your communication going forward? 

  1. Remember your position. Positional power may negatively influence employee thinking in the absence of specific communication.
  2. Make time for planned communication – brief communication is better than no communication
  3. Talk in person when the stakes are high if possible, or by phone.
  4. Ask more, and tell less. This helps to keep assumptions as bay.
  5. Confirm the listener(s) heard what you intended.
  6. Finish a meeting or conversation with a “contract” (here’s what we said/agreed to do, and when).

George Bernard Shaw may have said it best:  “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has take place.”  

Don’t let that illusion happen to you. 


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *