Fork Handles

four-candles1-225x300The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.
George Bernard Shaw

Fork handles or four candles? Pretty much any text you care to look at on the world of work stresses the importance of clear and effective communication. We know intuitively that good, truthful communication builds better, stronger relationships. So why are we so bad at it when we communicate in the workplace? There’s a growing realisation that traditional corporate life discourages us from bringing our whole self to work. Along with the suit and tie that stifles individuality, we dress our feelings in a cloak of invisibility. We’ve become so habitualised to this behaviour that we are often shocked when people reveal their vulnerabilities or passions. It’s so bad that it’s affecting our mental health. It drives restrictive social media policies. We feel moved to stress that our opinions are not those of our employer.

People don’t think other people are robots. But they’re prepared to have them behave like corporate automatons when they communicate with the rest of the world. Having a sense of individualism and personality is almost seen as seditious in politics, despite people like Boris Johnson polling higher than their anodyne counterparts. Whether you agree with their opinions of not, people prefer people who are open and honest. Open and honest, unguarded communication means mistakes will happen. As a leader, how you respond when your people make mistakes can come to define your leadership. It seems remarkable that we have to enshrine in law protections for whistleblowers. Despite those protections, whistleblowers are all too often given pariah status.

There are thousands of websites devoted to calling out corporate jargon for the bullshit it so clearly is, but still we persist in cloaking intent with obfuscation. Regulation demands that financial contracts are written in plain language understandable to consumers and have been for some years and yet we still get mis-selling scandals. Everyone’s at it, so there’s little alternative for people but to tick the box saying you agree to the terms and conditions and then sit back with fingers crossed that you haven’t just signed your privacy away or consigned yourself to penury.

People like to be talked to truthfully and clearly. People determine what makes it into internal and external communications. People talking to people. If you aren’t clear with people you leave room for a suspicion that you are being dishonest. If you’ve nothing to hide you’ve nothing to fear.

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One comment

  1. Great post Simon. Who decides what is corporate jargon, especially when that jargon makes its way into everyday conversations? Also, with the ability to communicate to so many people at once, there are often many interpretations of the same communication. I remember in a previous job a director often used the term ‘I wanted you to be the first to know’ , what he meant was ‘I have told many others before you, but I wanted you to be the first to know’

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