Resolving Communications Differences As A Leader
Navigating personality differences in communications can be hard. Here's a script for doing it.
Poor communication can be a massive problem in an organization. A survey in the Economist found that 52 percent of respondents said communication breakdowns cause stress, and 44 percent said communication breakdowns were the number one cause of project failures. Perhaps most notably, a whopping 88 percent of millennial respondents believe that poor communication stunts career growth. In other words, most younger employees believe an organization that doesn’t communicate well is capping their career potential—a damning belief for employees to hold.
A big part of improving communication comes from a mindset shift. A person cannot work well with others if they expect everyone else to think and feel the exact same way about things as they do. We all need to recognize that everyone is different and that there is rarely an objectively correct way to do or say something.
To illustrate this in practice, imagine that we have a manager, Taylor, and a direct report, Alex. Taylor is unapologetically candid and blunt. If a member of their team makes a mistake, Taylor usually doesn’t sugarcoat the feedback and cuts straight to the point. What some may see as curt, Taylor sees as efficient—they prefer to receive feedback in this manner as well.
In contrast, Alex is, by their own admission, a bit sensitive and more introverted. Even though they’ve worked on accepting feedback and not taking criticism personally, Alex still feels a sharp, brief sting whenever their work is criticized.
As you can imagine, Taylor and Alex have a sharp personality difference that can cause problems. But the solution to this is not for either Taylor or Alex to completely change. Taylor cannot authentically become incredibly tactful and light-handed in delivering feedback overnight, and Alex won’t easily suppress their feelings when hearing feedback. The solution is not to transfer Alex to a new team to avoid this friction either.
Instead, a leader should encourage Taylor and Alex to have an open conversation about their differences and see how they can meet each other halfway. As the manager, it falls on Taylor to initiate this type of communication shift. Here is how Taylor might go about having this type of open conversation:
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial