When I worked as the Director of HR for a nonprofit organization, I had an assistant by the name of Wendy.
Wendy worked hard, followed directions, asked the right questions, and we worked well together.
One day, I printed out a list of client names for Wendy. I needed her to line out certain names on the list who met certain criteria. I gave her these instructions and left her to it.
After awhile I happened to walk by her desk as I was heading out to lunch and thought I’d stop in and check on her. I distinctly remember looking down at the list on her desk and exclaiming (maybe even shrieking), “What are you doing??!! That’s not what I asked you to do!”
I was shocked that she had wasted all of that time doing this task so wrong. I’d given her such clear instructions after all.
Wendy responded by calmly saying, “Yes it is. You told me to…” and she repeated back to me, almost word for word, what I had said when I’d given her the instructions. It turned out that my instructions could be construed two ways – my way and her way – and both ways made perfect sense.
It wasn’t Wendy who was wrong, it was me. Perhaps I should have shown her one or two items so she could see what I meant. Or perhaps I should have asked her to show me one or two items so I could confirm we were on the same page.
Of course, I had to apologize for shrieking at her and for the time she’d wasted doing the project incorrectly. It was my fault she’d wasted that time, not hers.
My friend, Skip Weisman, calls this lack of specificity one of the deadly sins of workplace communication.
That’s right – I, the HR expert – committed a Deadly Sin.
It might sound dramatic, but think about it…
As a workplace communication expert for over 15 years, he hears complaints all the time from managers who say they have to ask direct reports time and again to follow through on assigned tasks, or to adjust something that was submitted because it wasn’t done properly.
That’s probably thousands, or perhaps millions, in post productivity and damaged morale.
When Skip tells these managers that it’s their own fault, sometimes they give him an angry look. Committing a deadly sin might not be easy to recognize or admit, but it’s true.
Skip actually has a total of 7 Deadly Sins… some of which are possible to commit without even realizing it.
Wonder what you or others in your organization are guilty of… and what to do about it?
Join Skip via webinar on Friday, April 28th at 10 am Pacific Time/1pm Eastern Time.
You’ll discover exactly where communication is negatively impacting your workplace most, and how to improve communication going forward.
Make sure you register for the webinar so you don’t miss your spot!
PS. You’ll also learn some simple communication tips to apply immediately in order to improve your results! Claim your spot.