• Thu, Dec 22 2011

Managing Men: Bridging The Communication Gap

Study after study has shown that women talk more than men. It’s become a pretty accepted fact that ladies just like to use their words. We want to explain, inform, discuss and debate. Some believe that this tendency is a strong asset for women in the office. After all, I’ve never worked in a company that hasn’t consistently harped on the need for more communication.

However, when you’re working with men who consistently talk a lot less than their female co-workers and bosses, it’s important for the manager to step in and bridge the communication gap. Here are a couple ways to make sure that you and the men are around you are still on the same page, no matter who is doing the talking.

  • You can’t change people. You cannot make your quiet and reserved employee chime in to every discussion. You can’t tell a naturally chatty co-worker that they should only speak up when it’s important. I mean, you could try these things, but you would piss a lot of people off. You need to work with the employees you have and find creative ways to solve problems without trying to change a person’s entire personality. Believe me, it will be more effective.
  • Ask for the highlights. If you have an employee who has a hard time updating you on their progress, set up a weekly highlight system. Once a week, ask them to send over an email with a simple, “Hey, this is what’s going on lately, we should be done on schedule.” This way, you feel in the loop without constantly asking a less-than-talkative employee to come in to your office for a “chat.”
  • Don’t confuse “short” with “concise.” I can fully admit that almost every work email I write contains a few pleasantries. I might say, “Hope you’re having a good week,” or “Happy holidays!” I fill up those emails with niceties and additional information that might not be completely necessary. I’m sure that both my bosses and my employees realize this. But I can’t get offended because others get straight to the point. It’s just their way of communicating.
  • Not every detail is necessary. When dealing with a certain key account, I used to write out their buyer long explanations of any problem I ran into and exactly how I was going to solve it. Since he bought for 16 locations to the tune of $200,000 a week, these could be some pretty lengthy emails. The only response I ever got back was, “Ok.” That was it. NOTHING! It drove me a little crazy. Finally, one week I simply emailed him, “We had problems with stores x, y, and z. You’ll be receiving some-such product two days late at these locations.” For the first time ever, I got a two-word answer: “Thank you.” In that moment, I learned that not every detail helps make your point. Sometimes you just have to speak to your audience.
  • Explain what you’re looking for. If an employee is seriously frustrating you with their lack of communication, you need to lay out exactly what you want to know and why it’s important for you to have this information. They obviously don’t understand why this is bothering you or else they wouldn’t do it. However, if you can’t explain why it’s necessary for them to give you this information on a daily, weekly or whatever basis, then you might be the one with the problem. Make sure that you’re only asking for things you really need to know.
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