Workplace Communication: How to Deal With Workplace “Snipers”

March 10th, 2021 by dayat No comments »

Effective communication skills in the workplace lower stress and improve productivity. However, some employees can sabotage a positive workplace atmosphere with their negative communication habits. For example:

A supervisor observes her employee looking around nervously and then ducking behind the copy machine.

“What are you doing?”, she asks.

A timid voice comes from behind the copy machine, “Avoiding snipers.”

Communication Snipers In the Workplace

First, let me be clear. I’m not talking about military sharpshooters, I’m talking about the every day communication snipers. The ones in the workplace.

Workplace snipers are highly trained marksmen (or women) who shoot verbal targets from concealed positions.

They have had specialized training in verbal communication attacks such as:

sarcasm,
humorous put downs,
disapproving looks
and innuendos.
Ok. So, your employees may not have to play “Duck and Cover” at your workplace, but they may feel like it sometimes, and that’s the worst thing they can do.

Workplace Communication Snipers Thrive on Negativity

Avoiding confrontation allows the snipers to get away with their covert hostility. Some people are just plain negative. They may have learned to act that way while growing up, or may have been rewarded for it later in life. Either way, they now make it a way of life – going about their day making trouble for those around them.

Snipers may not actually want to be too hurtful. They just have a poor way of dealing with relationships because they have learned that negative communication gives them an “edge.” So they use their verbal communication weapons to protect their territory, and keep anyone else from messing with them.

Unfortunately, this can have a negative effect on their workplace relationships, causing unnecessary conflict and tension. While snipers may feel they are gaining an “edge,” other employees wind up “feeling on edge” because of the problems they create.

People may find themselves tiptoeing around workplace snipers, keeping their distance, or avoiding them altogether. Their negativity has a destructive effect on the workplace atmosphere.

To Deal With Them, Learn this Communication Skill

Snipers usually refute their pot shots as either denial, “I’m only joking”, or volleying the responsibility back onto their victim, “Can’t you take a joke?”

Avoidance is not the answer. Here’s the secret to defusing them…

Train your employees to respond to these comments with a question.

“That sounds like you’re making fun of me. Are you?”
“What are you trying to tell me with that look?”
“Did you really mean what you said?”
Since verbal snipers rely on their camouflage, once their cover is blown, the chance for future attacks is lessened.

Dealing with negative communication is an essential leadership skill for supervisors and managers.

Being comfortable in the workplace is not only essential for employee job satisfaction, it’s also essential for quality productivity.

If you are a supervisor or manager, hold a communication skills training session with all your employees. This will alert any snipers that this type of negative communication won’t be tolerated. Your staff will appreciate your help and respect you for your leadership skills.

Visit http://www.confidencecenter.com/leadership to get instant access to our free Leadership Quiz.

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Workplace Communication – A Strategic Perspective

March 10th, 2021 by dayat No comments »

In my earlier article titled “Workplace Communication – A Practitioner’s View”, I had suggested deployment of a strategy as part of a comprehensive approach to employee communication.

Just to re-emphasize, I had suggested that the Workplace-Communication is a self-perpetuating process that aids the organization in achieving its goals by;

Interlinking various levels of hierarchy and functions;
Acknowledging employees about the organization’s vision, values and goals for enlisting their commitment;
Helping employees identify themselves with the organization’s vision and enabling them for prioritizing their actions; and
Helping the organization generate openness & mutual trust and develop congruence between organizational & individual, goals & efforts.
Here, I will now elaborate on the substance of a strategy for Workplace-Communication. Before we begin, let us hold a common meaning of strategy as “a plan of action designed to achieve a long-term objective”.

Workplace-Communication is somewhat akin to “internal advertising” with clarity on “Above The Line” and “Below The Line” approaches. The underlying purpose of the Workplace-Communication strategy is to keep employees adequately informed all the time regarding the current status of business, future prospects, issues concerning their jobs & careers, market conditions, etc., essential to achieve a greater congruence between organizational & individual, goals & efforts.

So what are the core elements of a sound Workplace-Communication strategy?

Development of the strategy

There is no point in presuming what employees would like to know or should know. It is a common sense as well as a daunting task. While developing a Workplace-Communication strategy, the organization should consider aspects like employee demographics, average education profile, average age profile, cultural diversity, language proficiency, etc. It would be worthwhile to do a dipstick on “what, when & how” employees would like to know about the business of the organization as well as about their jobs & careers. While every employee need not receive all the information, he / she should certainly get what is relevant to him or her at the right time.

Classification of information or data

Having identified “what, when & how” employees would like to know, each piece should be classified in terms of criticality and target audience. Classification should also include who should know what, when, how and from whom. The moot point is that the employees have the first right to information about the organization, and if they come to know about their organization from the external agencies, then the organization stands to lose credibility. This component has a stand alone weight also when the organization does not have a strategy for workplace communication.

Periodicity of communication

Too frequent or too infrequent communication – both are ineffective. Therefore, each piece of information should have a specified relay periodicity. The analogy is with the daily morning newspaper which has to come every morning and a fortnightly tabloid which has to come every fifteen days. Of course, in case of emergencies or special situations, information ought to be relayed immediately. There is no point if the invitee receives the marriage invitation after the couple is back from the honeymoon.

The language of communication

It is vital to convey information in the language which employees comprehend. It cannot be Shakespearean English when you are a Russian company. Relaying information concurrently in English as well as in the vernacular and / or the national language (if English is not the national language) is the most preferred way. It is also helpful to use visuals and videos depending on the topic. When communicated in the vernacular language, it is important to have a transliteration and not translation. The core aim of this component is to reach out to maximum possible employees.

Channels of communication

This is a challenging component of the workplace-communication strategy. It is entirely up to the organization to innovate on this front. The strategy by design should focus only on formal channels as informal channels have different purposes & implications. So what are the options?

Induction program / tour / film and intense (yes, I mean intense) interaction with the senior guys around

Well crafted induction & socialization booklet with visuals and emphasis on values and ethics

Bilingual monthly or quarterly magazine / newsletter (print as well as electronic version) with designer looks

Mass SMS (can be a powerful tool for conveying exciting news)

Updated “Employee Section” on the company’s website (accessible to employees only though their PCs, Laptops, Tablets and Smartphones)

Team or Department review meetings on a monthly basis (each such meeting must start with a brief on the overall business status and then only the departmental agenda should be discussed)

Circulars or Emails (for example, sharing quarterly / annual business results with all the employees one go) from the CEO or a designated senior and displaying a copy or transliterated version at all the conspicuous places

Display of the organization’s vision, mission & values in the most conspicuous places with suitable designs. Such display should catch attention immediately.

Conventional as well as digital boards / panels depending on the time of information

Computer screens / permanent standies

Training events (very intense tool to communicate with employees)

Official blogs / chat platforms

Annual or half-yearly get-together

Official letters given to employees (offer letter, appointment letter, confirmation letter, compensation revision letter, promotion letter, transfer letter, recognition letter, termination letter, etc.)
Feedback process

Do employees get to know about the organization what they need to know? Do they find the content relevant? Are they able to relate their own performance & experiences with that of the organization (barring the impact of external factors)? Are they receiving information as per the promised periodicity? Do they find the language lucid and the media apt? No communication can be effective if it is not two-way and understood properly. Therefore, it is pragmatic to have a periodic check on the effectiveness of the content, channel, periodicity, language, etc.

Core Group

A group of employees should be entrusted with the responsibility of ensuring the effective implementation of the communication strategy. The group should include the HR Head, at least one designated business head, Head of Corporate Communication, Head of PR and at least two employee representatives. It would be prudent to have a good balance of male & female members and seniors & juniors. Young guys have ideas & energy and veterans have the wisdom. Like the classification of information or data, this component too has a stand alone weight.

Conclusion

Over-communicating is better than under-communicating. Information in the organizational context is an essential food for thought, idea-generation, discussion, decision and action. So having a well-defined Workplace-Communication strategy and ensuring its effective implementation, is surely vital for the organization’s business & success. Communication could be spicy at times, but its real hallmarks are timeliness, adequacy, realism, language and the reach. Someone has aptly said that, “the skill in the art of communication is crucial to a leader’s success. He / she can accomplish nothing unless