Remote Workers Lack Skills to Communicate Effectively and Kindly
The fact is, some people love working remotely while others find it lackluster for various reasons. Regardless, when remote work is mandated or is a choice, there are unique aspects that come with it. I am going to focus on the remote worker’s communication styles, along with the perceptions and realities experienced by coworkers during interactions. The reason being, the way people communicate with co-workers and the way communications are interpreted is critical to morale and productivity. This in turn impacts operations and customer experience, which ultimately concern sales and profits. Hence, remote communication is critical to focus attention on right now. Do keep in mind that these same issues arise for people working under the same roof when they use written messages instead of walking over to communicate verbally face-to-face.
Sender and receiver emotions can’t always be in synch: The way you feel at the time you read an email influences the way you receive the message. Plus, the way a sender feels at the moment influences how they draft a message. Even if they don’t intend negativity, if they are rushed, a message may be short and to the point, but received as curt. Lots of communication follies can occur. I’ll explain more about this. Solution: When you feel a message is rubbing you the wrong way; take a deep breath, try to relax, and count to ten or just pause and come back. You get to choose how you feel and how you chose to respond. Think about how powerful that truly is. Letting snap judgment and first impression emotions run your life won’t get you far professionally or personally. So, fix it now. Take control. Be powerful, reset the tone back to people if you feel they have the wrong tone.
Fact is: Face-to-face conveyance is the ultimate way to go. If you can’t be in person then I suggest video chats. Rather it’s verbal or sign language, being face-to-face has advantages for effective communications.
Word on the streets: Increasingly, I am getting reports from workers across the United States, Canada, Europe, and Eurasia that coworkers are being abrasive to one another. With more workers than ever before working remotely, communication problems are rampant. In times when emotions are already volatile and tempers are on hair-triggers, we need to be extra sensitive to others. Especially, in how we communicate. Furthermore, be circumspect with written messages.
The problem is three-fold: When encoding and decoding messages there is always an opportunity to error. First, unintended negative meaning can be inferred from emails, texts, company chat, and text messaging between employees and management. Second, actual abrasive messages are sometimes being sent on purpose across all internal written channels. Third, ambiguity in internal communications leads to costly confusion.
Why is there so much miscommunication: More new remote workers means more inexperienced remote communicators. This is compounding the long-existing problem. The crux of the matter is there are usually too few words from the sender and the meaning to the receiver hinges on their current state of mind, feelings, and expectations. This causes passive and assertive aggressive emotions. Ever had any of these thoughts after reading someone’s message; They don’t like me! I’ll give them a piece of my mind! What the #%&! Why would they write to me like this? Who do they think they are? I won’t be treated like this! Should I alert human resources or a manager? I’ll show them! Next, the issue is compounded because the receiver becomes the sender of a fiery message, and a vicious volley of mean messaging ensues like a lightening paced Ping-Pong battle. Sometimes though, the receiver decided to give no reply, however, the damage is still done and relationship consequences will emerge. The consequences of either passive or assertive aggressive responses can be dire for the organization and it’s customers. Its a good idea to check out the book, Overcoming The 15 Categories of Rejection, to advance communication skills and persuasion power.
Major pitfalls in written messages: Without seeing the person being communicated with, there is little data to interpret the message. When body language is invisible, how do you know for sure the true message meaning? Message meaning is skewed when you don’t hear voice tone, volume, pause, speed, and inflection. Also, when you can’t see facial expressions or gage eye contact it’s hard to understand people fully. The same applies when you can’t get a feel for a person’s aura or vibe. Without nonverbal cues, the ability to understand messages is handicapped.
The 7% Rule, true or false: Albert Mehrabian published the book, Silent Messages, in 1971. The book assigned just 7% of communication effectiveness as verbal and 93% to non-verbal factors. (7% spoken words, 38% voice, tone, and 55% body language). To be fair, Phil Yaffee discredits the 7% rule siting the scientific method was flawed. He is the author of the books, The Gettysburg Approach to Writing and Speaking Like a Professional. Regardless, we can say for certain that if you only read a message, the odds that you will understand the intent and meaning correct all the time is impossible. Plus, sometimes the sender wants the intent and meaning to be poignant and off-putting.
Speaking of senders meaning for an ill-intent…
Ever heard of ‘Screen Courage,’ or ‘Keyboard Courage?’ It’s when people write things they wouldn’t say to a person’s face. All channels of written messaging experience this false bravery, especially social media and in remote worker interactions.
Solutions to effectively communicate remotely (or even if you’re writing to someone in the same building but not getting face-to-face): Avoid hurting and angering others by being misunderstood. Prevent hot-tempered and ill-advised messages from bolting out of your screen to strike people harmfully. Follow these techniques to persuade more effectively with your written word.
Rather you are the message sender (encoder) or the message receiver (decoder), follow these guidelines to become a distinguished leader and an “Ahh-Mazing” communicator.
Ideally, when sending or replying to messages;
- Get face-to-face when possible
- Use video chat more often
- Use live phone discussions more often
*Be cautious with voice mails as they have many of the same issues written messages possess.
When face-to-face communication is not happening use these 13 steps;
- Think more carefully about your message and how to communicate it
- Pause, take a break, or just count to 10 when emotion tingles in your brain and body
- Picture the person with good intentions (Think of them as a friend)
- Try to see the message in a different way
- If you’re certain it’s ill intent then use judo and respond kindly to convert the energy positively
- Manage your expectations
- Don’t jump to conclusions, especially negative ones
- Use ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ sincerely and often
- Use smiley faces and happy emojis when possible
- Be polite and use the Golden Rule; treat others as you want to be treated
- Remember, everything in writing can be read by others
- Communicate to help and not to hurt
- Use spell check and then re-read your message to ensure you don’t embarrass you or the receiver with a wrong wording (Especially, when using speech-to-text, as I know from personal experience)
Special note about phone calls: Pick up the phone to send, receive and reply to messages with the focused intent to talk calmly, get clarity, be patient, listen, and be kind. Do the same with face-to-face, of course.
Good news… this company culture and profit killer can be fixed: Alleviating miscommunication from ever happening is not possible. Creating awareness of the issue in your company is possible though. To quote the toy company Hasbro’s G.I. Joe’s character, “Knowing is half the battle.” Next, you can train how to handle emotions and tempers. Then teach the dynamics of encoding and decoding messages. Make humorous public service videos about screen courage. Keep refining employee-to-employee communications continually. Your company’s daily morale and productivity are impacted negatively if you put your head in the sand and ignore this issue. The customer experience will be enhanced greatly as a result too. After all, many of the same issues of internal messaging spill into prospect and customer interactions. I suggest you begin by broadcasting this article right now. You can use this link. Start now. Communicate effectively to your people about how to communicate effectively with each other and your market!