When you say nothing you speak volumes! Not literally of course, but the act of not communicating sends a message and it’s likely not the message you would have sent had you realized not sending a message is sending one. Does this sound confusing? It is!
As human beings when we don’t “hear” from people we assume the worst. We’ve all had that experience of waiting – “Did you get accepted into that A calibre school?” “Will you get the funding to start/grow your business?” Often times when we hear nothing our mind runs amuck. “I must not have been accepted; surely this is an indicator I am not going to get the loan.”
Now translate this same “lack of communication” in the workplace and multiply it times your number of employees and you get a good idea of how the rumour mill starts.
To stop or at least curb the water cooler gossip consider the following:
Manage expectations: As a leader/manager let people know your communication “frequency”. If you tend to under communicate – tell them – more than once so they know that no news is not necessarily bad news. If you don’t return an e-mail it doesn’t mean you don’t care, it means you are swamped.
Schedule a regular “up-date” team meeting: Once a month, once a quarter – whatever works – up-date your team on big picture stuff – here’s what’s happening, here’s what we are doing about it, here’s how it is impacting us, here’s what’s staying the same and what’s changing. Keep the meeting brief, a stand up is better than a sit down; make it a routine – same day, same time, same place.
Develop a monthly/weekly “open door” invite: One morning a month/week – again whatever works for you – is “open door” Friday. This is a casual impromptu opportunity for people to come in and chat about whatever is on there mind. It’s informal; it’s not structured, if no one shows up its ok. If people know they have an opportunity to share/vent/brainstorm in an open forum it is less likely they will go behind closed doors and actively recruit other employees to join the “bitch fest”. And the bonus, it curbs the “come whenever you feel like it to dump whatever problem” to a specific date/time. [I could write another whole blog about this and will]
Who knew saying nothing said so much. By proactively opening the lines of communication and maintaining them (aka committing to a communication schedule) you make sure the alarm bells aren’t ringing and people are going about business as usual and being productive.