Digital Project Management

Internal Communication: The Dangers of Laziness

February 27, 2018


The office has changed a lot in the last few years. The tools we use to interact have made instant communication easier, especially internally. Non-verbal communication is becoming a much larger part of the office dynamic. Today, chat programs like Slack are increasingly becoming the main communication tool among team members. And since these tools make communicating so easy, it’s also easy to get lazy with our internal communications, and fail to take the time to really consider the impact of what we’re writing.

You might be thinking, “Why not be a little lazy with it?” After all, you are only talking to your peers, not your client who needs you to provide support or convey competence. Your coworkers are your team and they’re your “buddies”, right? You might think it’s okay to be lazy when communicating with them… but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

In fact, it is more important to communicate effectively with internal team members because they’re the people you work with every day. And poor communication can lead to misunderstandings. Lazy communication shouldn’t be the reason you have tension with your team. You can avoid accidentally creating a hostile or unfriendly environment by being conscious of your words.

Not sure what I mean? Here are some examples of poorly written communication and how they might be misinterpreted by other members of your team:

Example: Feedback

In this example, someone has asked you to review a document that will be sent to a client.

Bad:

  • Update the 3rd page to reference to the budget
  • Ensure we’re capitalizing the full name of the company
  • Remove any mention of the mobile app, we’re moving that to another phase

This response fails to acknowledge the effort that went into the deliverable. Sharing feedback through non-verbal communications like Slack or email can remove all nuance if you’re not careful. Unlike face to face communication, non-verbal communication gives the reader no ability to judge tone or body language. Because of this, the tone of a written message is more likely to be misunderstood. In our example, the reviewer’s feedback only pointed out the negatives, without acknowledging the team member’s effort. This can make the recipient feel like the reviewer doesn’t appreciate the effort.

Good:

Hey Natalia, thanks for taking time to put that together. I’ve reviewed and found some small changes that I’d like to see made:

  • Update the 3rd page to reference to the budget
  • Ensure we’re capitalizing the full name of the company
  • Remove any mention of the mobile app, we’re moving that to another phase

Let me know if you need more clarity on the above and we can discuss.

This message is friendlier, and includes a more “human” introduction and outro which allows the recipient to better judge the tone of the message. It also acknowledges the effort put into the document. The intro also can lessen the emotional impact of the feedback by making the response feel more human and conversational. It even offers a chance to discuss further. Adding the introduction and making the message feel more “human” can change the tone of your feedback from “You did a terrible job. Fix it”, to “Thanks for the great work, let’s make it even better!”

Let’s look at another example.

Example: Request

In this example, a client has asked for a deliverable that you need a team member’s help to complete.

Bad:

@[steve] – we need a report completed for this project by 9am on Friday.

Again, written communication can sometimes have a seemingly negative tone that is easy to misinterpret. This request also doesn’t provide any context to the recipient as to why you need the report. The tone of this message is rather demanding, and isn’t how one should interact with a team member.

The person who receives this request isn’t likely to feel valued. They won’t understand the context of the request, and won’t feel encouraged to ask questions for more clarity. Imagine a boss snapping a request at you and then closing their office door again.

Good:

Hey Steve, we just had a meeting with the client. They were wondering about the best time to send out their sales emails. Would you be able to pull a report of their customer behaviour? I am hoping we can analyze and give the client our recommendation.
Hoping to send this through to the client on Friday at 9am. Let me know if you want to chat on this more or need more clarity. Thanks!

It’s much easier to understand the tone of this response. It also provides context to the task being requested. And it gives an opportunity for the recipient to ask for more clarity, as well a chance to offer their expertise or insight to help with the task.

Think before you write, and feel before you send

Internal communication through Slack or QA tickets doesn’t have to be dry and robotic, and it doesn’t have to risk misunderstanding through laziness. Next time you’re about to send a written communication, stop and ask yourself, “How would I communicate this in person?” I would also suggest re-reading your communications before sending them out. Think about how your tone could be perceived if you were receiving it, and you were in your worst mood.

Company culture is based on our day to day interactions. The way we communicate with our team will set the tone for our working relationships. Take a moment. Try to be more conscious of your tone and the language you use when communicating with your team.

@mandamwright on all things social!

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