Communication In The Workplace – A Manager’s Responsibility

by Diane M. Hoffmann, ph.d./th.

Some years ago, I worked for a company as a contract person, where the weirdest communication manager I ever came across performed. This senior manager who was responsible for marketing and communication never said good morning first or initiated any kind of communication. She didn't know anything about me when I first started and had no interest in finding out. Communication in the workplace is first a manager’s responsibility.

If I had not talked first, there would have been no communication outside of receiving orders from her. Within the first few days of my joining the team, there was a call for the staff to gather in the conference room for an important announcement. As we waited around the conference table for a long time and people were exchanging pleasantries, this marketing/communications manager never even introduced me. No one knew who I was. I certainly didn't know anyone and everybody was in little groups talking about their own familiar things.

You might say, it's up to the individual to introduce him/herself. Well, that’s what one has to do if management doesn’t know better. I have often made studies in companies, where I came in and purposefully did not say anything to see how long it would take for others to initiate communication or introduce me to a group. Sometimes, managers did eventually make a first contact -- but rarely; I would sooner or later have to do it myself.

You can always size up management training and communication capability by the staff. If they only knew what they say about themselves through their own people. Most don’t even bother to find that out.

Amazingly, many corporations don’t know either that the people to whom the new employees are "entrusted" don’t deliver properly. Often, wrong instructions are given which stay with the new staff for a long time until somebody catches it, but by then, it might have caused a lot of problems or damage to the new people or their performance.

I remember doing some work for a company where I had been briefed about fire drills on my first day. Some months later, a drill took place. I had forgotten the details that had been said to me. I had been through fire drills at other companies before and I knew that supervisors are there to give instructions at the time.

A sound rang through the office which I did not know as the sound of the fire alarm. It didn’t sound like those I had heard before. I asked an employee who had been there many years if that was the fire alarm. I could not see the other area of offices where people worked because mine was located at the far end corner of the building in an L-shaped area, away from the view of the others.

The only person I could see was that one individual in the office right adjacent from mine. As he picked up his jacket, he gazed ahead, ignoring my inquiry, without saying a word, stretching his head as if trying to figure out what was going on himself and proceeded toward the central area of the building.

I figured out by myself that people were making their way out as well, so I started toward the main area too. Everybody had already gone out. I met one supervisor dashing across to the back door entrance, whom I asked where I was supposed to go. He told me to go to the front entrance. I was the last one to join the shivering staff waiting and milling around on the front lawn.

After the whole drill had taken place and we came back to our posts, this individual whom I had questioned, told me that “he couldn’t say anything, because he was supposed to time how long it took everybody to go out". Hello! If a new employee had asked me if that was the fire alarm, you better believe I would have said "yes it is".

The most amazing thing is that, again, none of the management people knew about this behaviour from an employee who had been given a responsibility he wasn't trained for nor ready to take on. Why is communication so poor in companies? All communication in the workplace is a manager’s responsibility from the very top to the very bottom. I always say we need a General Communicator in every organization to take on what management is unable to do./dmh

Article Copyright(c)Diane M. Hoffmann. You may print this article making sure to include the following bio without any changes.

Diane M. Hoffmann is the founder of Hoffmann-Rondeau Communications and author of the 296-page printed book "Contextual Communication, Organization and Training". Diane also provides a 2-part e-book version of her printed book, "Improve Communication, Verbal and Nonverbal" and "Improve Communication, Organization and Training" as well as many free articles which can be seen at her blog at http://contextual-communication-hrd.blogspot.com/.

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