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Husband sits at kitchen table eating a bagel and reading newspaper.
Wife enters, harried, and tells husband her parents are coming over for dinner that evening.
Husband grunts. Never looking up from newspaper.
Wife grabs her briefcase and rushes out the door.
Husband returns from work; finds in-laws in the living room; feels ambushed.
Dinner argument ensues; dirty laundry is aired; chatty three-year old reveals mother-in-law’s “nickname.”
Marriage communication – or lack thereof - is fertile ground for evening sitcom humor. Because the scene above has happened to you; or your neighbor; or your best friend.
But it doesn’t just happen at home.
Communication snafus like this one happen in cubicles and corner offices everyday. And the humor in miscommunication at the office is usually much harder to find.
When we feel left out of the communication loop at home, it’s because “men are from Mars, women are from Venus.” When we feel left out of the communication loop at work – where our livelihood and paycheck are at stake – we feel devalued. What was probably just a systems issue becomes a personal issue.
When you’re the one who didn’t get the memo, you aren’t angry with your company’s communication plan, you’re angry with the person who didn’t tell you about the 3 P.M. meeting; or let you know the final decision had been made; or give you the heads up that the email blast was being sent. Our tendency is to look for someone to blame. So a simple oversight in communication has now become a breakdown in trust between two people.
The truth of the matter is, given normal time constraints, we can be either:
- fully informed and unproductive (one meeting and one memo after the other), or
- productive with occasional communication challenges
And the even harder truth is that the higher you move in an organization, the more often you are forced to choose between those options. Your days don’t get any longer, but your to-do list does.
Think about these questions. Have you ever been the one left out of the loop? Or have you had a day full of meetings (or an email chain that wouldn’t die) that made you wish your organization had a better communication system?