Limit ambiguities in your communication

Communicating with your staff is already complicated enough in normal times. But when working remotely during a period of major anxiety, you have to be particularly mindful of ambiguities and things left unsaid.

You may wonder why your messages are leading to more misunderstandings, ambiguities, or incorrect interpretations since you began working remotely. Especially since you feel you’re communicating just like before! In fact, the absence of nonverbal language leaves room for interpretation that can be a million miles from reality. 

 

  • You have less direct contact with colleagues and, therefore, fewer opportunities for informal discussions and feedback. Colleagues will tend to read too much into your every word and analyze your tone, sometimes looking for a hidden meaning to answer that crucial question, “What does my manager really think of me? You may intend your “OK” to be a simple sign of approvalYour employee, however, might interpret it as, “It’s just barely OK.”   
  • Your employees, like you, are going through a period of uncertainty. Even the most anodyne event can feed an already stressful environment and be seen as a dark omen of an upcoming catastrophe rather than just a fact.  

More than ever, your colleagues are observing you to decipher your behavior, your messages, or your lack of messages. Communicate as clearly as possible to limit misinterpretation. Your staff will then be able to spend more time concentrating on the job at hand. 

 

To go further: “Ambiguous times are no time for ambiguous leadership” by Adam Bryant (Strategy+Business, August 2020)