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Communication Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Does at Work

How many times does your boss talk about communication being the key to the office running smoothly? If you’re like me, you hear that every day and during every meeting. Changes happen by the minute in my office. You can be told something at 8:30 in the morning and by 9:30, after you have started to make the changes requested, someone else comes along and tells you that wasn’t what they were told and now you are at a standstill. Do you stop what you were doing and seek out your boss for “clarification”? Or do you continue to do as you were told? Often, regardless of what you decide, it will be the wrong decision because someone else will have decided to change the plan without discussing it with the key players.

I have realized that the more we communicate between the departments at work, the more we are criticized for doing so. Each of the section leads in the department have weekly meeting with the boss. While we each have a fixed day and time for our meetings, we often get a call or an email asking to meet at a different day or time, so we are never really sure if the others have already had their meetings. One of the ways that we as leads handle this is to compare notes. “Did she discuss this or that with you?” “Do you want to meet to discuss what we can do to help your team so we aren’t duplicating tasks?” “Let’s make sure we were all given the same information.” Sounds great right? Except it really isn’t. While the leads all want to work together, the boss doesn’t want that. It doesn’t matter if you are trying to save time and help one another out. The boss would really prefer that you don’t discuss things that affect the department among each other.

So, I’ve made the decision that I will not discuss anything with any other leads in the department. If someone asks a question, I will direct them to her and allow her to explain what she wants. If they want to discuss my section’s role, I will direct them to her. Maybe if I do this enough, the other leads will stop asking me what I’m going to do and she will have to decide every little thing. Of course, I’m sure I will get another lecture about how I’m not communicating with the other leads. “Really? I’m directing them back to you rather than have a conversation with them that you don’t want me to have. How is that not communicating?”

To help me remember, I have written, “Keep your thoughts to yourself,” in several different languages and will put it somewhere I can easily see it. Repetition is the key to remembering and apparently I need to remember not to communicate at work.

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