Communication Therapy

As the economy begins to improve, employees are contemplating removing their head from the “please don’t fire me” sand and considering other options. For awhile, they were willing to tolerate frustrations in everything from management style to compensation. However, there is always a boiling point and it often coincides with a rising economic outlook that makes alternative prospects not only more promising, but more obtainable than they had previously seemed.

A friend was discussing a work scenario recently that has become all too common at many places of employment. She has been tasked with a major project that has been deemed important to the future of the company. She initially approached the project with great enthusiasm and creativity. There were endless ideas for making the project a success and she was willing to go above and beyond to try each and every one that she could. However, as she tried to move things along, she was faced with roadblock after roadblock. When she presented her ideas, it took management several weeks to get back to her with feedback. The feedback they did provide was vague and amounted to, “We don’t like this or that” but lacked the constructive details that would send her in the right direction. She went through revision after revision and continued to face the same frustrating lack of communication and indecisiveness. After several months of effort, the enthusiasm she once had was completely gone and she began to resent the time she had to put toward this project because it seemed futile and unrewarding. Not only was she not able to put her creative ideas into practice, but she wasn’t even able to get on the road to some sort of finished product she could be proud of, even if it was different from her initial ideas.

This situation is not unique and presents an enormous problem for employers. When hiring, they likely sought the creative, enthusiastic, go-getter attitude my friend exemplifies. However, through their actions (or inaction), they systematically shut these qualities down and transformed this promising employee into a bitter one who is content to just do the minimum because going above and beyond becomes more of a chore than a reward.

Employers can nip this problem this in the bud by undertaking immediate and extensive “communications therapy.” This may sound intimidating, but it will not only result in improved morale, but also increased productivity and enthusiasm at work.

Communications Therapy involves the following steps:

Step 1: Each employee meets one-on-one with the Communication Therapist to discuss any problems they may be experiencing at work. These can range from delayed decision making to lag times in email response. They are free to air any issues that are preventing them from accomplishing their goals and excelling at their job.

Step 2: The Communications Therapist analyzes the suggestions and frustrations of the employees and looks for trends among staff and management. Perhaps everyone who works with manager X finds that projects lag because they do not respond to emails in a timely manner.

Step 3: The Communications Therapist develops a plan of action that will help correct the problems. This can include setting measurable, attainable goals for management or staff, such as responding to each email from their team within 1 hour or 1 day, depending on the urgency of the project. These are not the same goals that employees set annually in order to get a bonus or promotion. These are goals that improve day-to-day job satisfaction and performance throughout the workplace. Often these problems are communication issues that can be resolved with some direction and dedication.

Step 4: The Communications Therapist meets one-on-one with each employee to let them know how their concerns will be addressed and help them set personal goals to help them be an effective team member.

Step 5: Employees put the new goals into action and are encouraged to mention their appreciation for the effort of others’ at achieving their personal communications goals. This can be as simple as saying, “Thank you for responding so quickly!” to anonymously leaving an apple or piece of candy on their desk. Many people are simply unaware of the effect their actions or inaction has on others and are happy to correct the behavior when it is called to their attention.

Step 6: The Communications Therapist meets with the employees again to gauge the effectiveness of these new communication strategies and goals and determine the effect they’ve had on overall productivity and morale. If goals have been achieved, the staff is rewarded. If problems persist, the goals are reevaluated and analyzed to determine what might be hindering communication.

Step 7: Follow-up. The Communications Therapist will follow up with the employees regularly to ensure that new problems don’t arise and old problems are kept at bay.

This process does involve some time and effort, but if it results in retaining even just one promising employee and also retaining their enthusiastic spirit, then the investment pays for itself.

Communications is often over-looked as unimportant or too obvious to need practice. However, this would be akin to realizing that your lights on your car are out and driving full speed ahead in the dark anyway. Sure, you’d have to pull over and fix the problem, but look how much faster you can drive when you can see!

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