Whenever I start working with new clients, I take the time to understand the issues that they are facing in their culture so that we can resolve them once and for all. And one of the biggest issues for almost every team that I work with is lazy communication.
This is the kind of communication that creates confusion, annoyance or apathy. Communication that drains attention and may lead to future messages being ignored. Communication that can ruin your day — and your culture — before it’s even started!
Workplace cultures are full of lazy communication. Do any of these ring true for you?
- Being copied into an email that adds no value to the work that you do or requires no action from you
- Meeting time being consumed by one or more individuals whose overlong observations or opinions add little to the discussion
- Presentations that contain technical language or imagery that is hard to understand or else requires complex explanation
- Being left a long or unintelligible voice message
- People who overshare about their personal lives whilst you’re in the middle of productive work
- Acronyms that only a few people understand
- Being part of a messaging group or channel where one or two individuals dominate and rather than speak one to one, they speak one to many
- Being sent an overlong email that struggles to get to the point
- Attending a meeting for 60-minutes when 20-minutes would have done just fine!
These are some examples and I’m sure that there are many more. We’re also great at explaining away pointless communication:
- ‘It’s important to get this message across to as many people as possible’
- ‘I didn’t want to leave anyone out’
- ‘You need to understand the context as well as the content’
- ‘It’s important to get everyone’s opinion on this’
- ‘I wanted to keep it on your radar’
- ‘I booked more time, just in case’.
Lazy communication is a huge problem, but the good news is that with agreement between team members — and a bit of accountability and discipline — it can be changed almost immediately.
For communication to be meaningful, it needs to:
- Be given in context to aid understanding
- Be easy to process
- Be of value to the person consuming it
- Be relevant at that point in time
- Be clear about what action is required (if any)
- Be of appropriate length
- Be delivered in a way that’s appreciated (not ignored) by the audience.
The latter point is particularly important if you’re communicating to large groups of people. In order to be effective, multiple modes of communication may be required (video, email, face-to-face etc.) to ensure that everyone receives the same message, albeit in different ways.
People’s attention is in constant demand, so it’s important that when it’s required, we ask ourselves whether the communication adheres to the principles above. If not, then there’s a good chance it will create frustration and that future communication will be ignored. And that means people may miss information that they actually need to do their job!
What can you do to address lazy communication in your team?