Learn to communicate strategically and free yourself from the vast pile of e-mail, voice mail and memos
People in business are being buried in internal and external communications by e-mail, voice mail, messages and memos. Ironically, these same people feel they are not guilty of sending too many messages themselves.
Four-fifths of senior executives and managers say they receive too many regular communications from both internal and external sources, based on a nationwide survey by NFI Research. While a third of business leaders said they receive significantly too many communications, only 3 percent said they send significantly too many. The most cited culprit of volume of communication is e-mail.
"The worst offender is the e-mail that copies multiple people, all of whom use 'reply all' to create a blizzard of competing comments from people and confuse rather than clarify the initial communication," said one survey respondent.
"One of the biggest problems I experience is the lack of e-mail etiquette on the part of those who tend to copy everyone or don't pay attention to who the target audience is. As such, e-mails can be of no value to me, unclear in the message or have an actionable item within the text but it is lost among the amount of words," said another respondent.
Unfortunately, some businesspeople send e-mails rather than dealing with issues directly, one on one.
"My major complaint is with people who fire off a poorly conceived e-mail (or worse, a series of them) rather than dialling the phone or walking down the hall for a simple face-to-face discussion that solves the problem faster and more effectively," one manager said.
Another agreed. "Unfortunately, it seems that I receive too much mass communication and not enough of the effective, problem-solving kind," he said. "I have become an advocate of getting up off my chair and speaking with people face to face whenever possible. Not only does it lead to faster results, it also prevents me from dehumanizing people with whom I may not fully agree."
Part of the communication overload can be caused by the communications themselves. Rather than careful screening, many in business tend to send out everything, burying many of the recipients in a never-ending stream.
"The problem at my organization isn't the amount of communication, but the quality of what is communicated," said a survey respondent. "Things that the staff wants to know are not communicated, whereas trivial things are what's communicated."
"It seems I get too much information that I don't need and not enough information that I do need," said another.
And yet another manager said: "It feels like we spend a lot of time dumping information out, but not a lot of time filtering and crafting messages so that we get our main points across. The BlackBerry world that we live in seems to be propagating this problem. Short blasts . . . incomplete thoughts . . . lead to a lot of miscommunication . . . although the communication is happening more often."
Not all communication overload comes from inside the business. "Most of the extraneous information from external resources I receive comes from suppliers I use who don't realize that I don't need to know about everything they ever do, every marketing effort and every sale."
So before you send that next message, no matter the transmission method, take a moment to consider if it is critical for the intended recipient or whether it will just add to the overload they already face. The intended recipients might appreciate receiving one less communication added to their pile.
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