Communication is at the heart of a good work environment
It’s impossible to make good decisions without having information. Sometimes people with a well-intentioned “begin with yes” attitude proceed full speed ahead without first taking the time to understand the issues and people involved, and the results can be counterproductive. I certainly do not promote dragging one’s feet when actions need to be taken, but even a few extra minutes spent making sure you know what information you want to obtain and thinking about the best way to go about it can make all the difference.Q. How do I know if my organization has a healthy work environment? Are there signs to look for?A. There may be signs, but the higher up in an organization you are, the more difficult it becomes to see how people are really feeling.I appreciate the intent of this question, but I am not going to suggest a quick fix – because I don’t think there is one.My suggestion is not to look for signs, but rather directly ask the people that are co-creating the environment with you what they think.But asking isn’t enough. You first need to create a work world where honest answers are welcomed and even rewarded. Most of us get that healthy communication is always a two-way street and ideally happens when all parties are free to speak their minds and there is a balance of power with no negative consequences for anyone respectfully expressing different opinions and viewpoints.This is going to have to “begin” with you. If you’re serious about wanting to know more about your work environment, you’re going to have to begin with a little soul-searching.What would you have to do to create a corporate communication style that truly offers safe opportunities for people to share what they really think and feel?The fact that you want to know is heartening, and if you really listen, you will hear some good stuff and also some not-so-good stuff too – and that’s all good.Q. I just missed out on a promotion that I really thought I had earned. Should I look for a job elsewhere?A. Almost all of us, sooner or later, have an experience like yours and it can be a real disappointment. This is not the kind of question that’s going to get a simple yes or no answer. Even though you missed out on a promotion, you have also been given a tremendous, life-changing opportunity.And that’s to learn more about yourself that will enhance your position for future opportunities either at your current place of employment or someplace new.Your challenge is to figure out why the “powers that be” felt someone else was a better fit for the promotion. It’s going to take some heart-to-heart conversations and you’re going to have to convince those you reach out to that you want to learn and listen.Ideally these conversations would include a few close co-workers, a friend or two and, if possible, your boss. It’s going to be up to you to convince people that their honest and direct feedback will be helpful, you want to hear it and you can take it. Your job will be to simply listen, ask for clarification and examples and otherwise be quiet.Your biggest temptation will be to disagree, justify, complain or in some other subtle way “talk back.” If you can’t control that, don’t bother doing the exercise. If you can do this, I promise you’ll learn a lot and at some point in your career, you’ll look back on this event as a very positive game-changer.Q. We have a great workplace culture where people feel free to talk about their personal lives, but some of my colleagues provide “too much information.” How do I say, “Enough is enough,” without seeming uncaring?A. I just cover my ears, laugh good-naturedly and say “TMI” as I walk away. Let me know if that doesn’t work!Paul Boynton, president and chief executive of Moore Center Services, Manchester, is also a personal coach, corporate consultant, motivational speaker, host of the television show “Begin with Yes” and author of the book by the same name. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.