Why Workplace Communication Fails
It's My Way or the Highway
A couple of years ago, I was training a group of employees who were about to go through a restructure. One of them banged his fist on the table, saying, "I'll only leave on my own terms!"
If only life were so simple.
But as in life outside the workplace, life in the workplace is not always - even often - within our control.
I've noticed this in a number of companies. When change is announced, both sides dig their heels in - for example, management might want to make changes to a shift pattern, and employees might be categorically against those changes.
My work as a trainer and facilitator is to open minds up to the huge grey area that exists between my way and your way. It's in the grey area that opportunities and creativity and innovation and new ideas flourish.
Can Change Have a Silver Lining?
Most of us, at some point or another, have or will experience a hardship that is beyond our control. Digging our feet in - being rigid - will not help us surmount that difficulty. Interestingly, the ability to surmount some kinds of workplace hardship seems to be gendered. "Men, it seems, are struggling to adapt [to redundancy]" a 2009 article says, "nursing badly bruised egos when they're forced to scale back the family budget, cancel holidays, send back cars, do more of the school runs and domestic duties, and "force" their partners to work more hours."
Men, unlike women, have few positive ways of defining themselves outside of the workplace, says Burchell who found that even when unemployed men move into temporary or insecure jobs, they show no improvement in their psychological health. But for unemployed women, even insecure jobs are enough to restore their psychological health.
The grey area is hard. It's hard when there's no clarity, when things are turned upside-down. Hard work has to be done to find the opportunity, to find new ideas to old problems, to think outside of the box.
Being Creative in the Workplace
And yet, it can be done. One company that I worked with needed to change shift patterns. And while that much was set in stone, the way they went about it wasn't. They turned to their staff to ask for their ideas; while the employees hadn't wanted the shift change, they were given the opportunity to be creative and come up with something in the grey area. They worked really hard and came back with a creative, innovative idea that management hadn't thought of, which kept the employees satisfied, and ended up saving the company millions of pounds.
This is the lesson here: change is often imposed upon us, and there's no way around that. However, how we deal with the change and how we ultimately solve the problems that the change causes us, is ultimately up to us.