Laboratory managers must communicate effectively with their employees, clients, and suppliers. Staff members, in particular, must believe that the manager is delivering accurate information, is not hiding information, and is willing to listen. If the manager succeeds, employees will not need to seek knowledge elsewhere. In addition, early communication can help to limit the number of damaging rumors. “Serious catastrophes, created in error, continually flow and spread before they can be dispersed by reality,” noted President George Washington. Negative words can damage productivity and confidence in the workplace. Negative rumors spread when workers don’t charge what they’re related to. Helpful, honest transmission can support reducing this. So, what can laboratory managers do to help?
1. The Best Policy Is Honesty
Always be honest with employees when speaking with them. The truth behind deceptions and lies is usually discovered sooner or later. When this happens, the manager loses all credibility and becomes an ineffective leader right away. There are numerous examples in newspaper headlines. I saw something similar, much closer to home, in a prior employer’s laboratory. Because he was the most recently hired, the department manager invited everyone into a meeting and informed us that a capable young scientist had been laid off. Several heads swiveled in the direction of another chemist employed recently. Before the hour was out, everyone on the team knew the truth: the manager had saved the job of the more recently hired employee.
As a manager, only make promises that you can follow through on. For example, I once overheard a department manager promising his employees that no laboratory workers would be laid off. Instead, a 10% employee cut less than a month afterward. With me, the management had lost all credibility. As a result, other team members and I began to operate more autonomously, no longer relying on the manager for direction.
Don’t be scared to admit when you’ve made a mistake. “You were correct, and I was wrong,” is even more potent for establishing credibility. If you don’t understand something, admit it. Many employees, for example, are concerned about layoffs in a downturn in the economy. I witnessed managers reacting to questions from laboratory staff members about the risk of layoffs at three different firms. Several supervisors stated there would be no layoffs in two of these circumstances. First, they had been kept in the dark; staff reduction decisions were taken at a high level, and lower-level managers were only notified at the last minute before employees were fired. In the second situation, the company’s president and owner stated that while every effort to avoid layoffs, other cost-cutting measures such as compensation freezes or temporary pay reduction might be used. Salary freezes were implemented for around six months, while the president and vice presidents were given significant compensation cuts. Despite the circumstances, employee morale and productivity remained high.
Ascertain that your personnel is given credit for their achievements; never take credit for a proposal made by a coworker. Nothing makes staff members squirm in their seats more than witnessing you claim credit for someone else’s work during a meeting. Giving employees credit for their work, on the other hand, fosters loyalty and respect, which is typically reflected in increased productivity. Even if the employee isn’t present, they will likely hear about what you did. My first boss at Shell Chemical was a master at recognizing and rewarding her employees’ efforts. As a result, her work group earned a reputation for attaining rapid advancement compared to other groups. Her people were more eager to go the extra mile to attain goals than most of their contemporaries.
Stay away from the “need-to-know” mentality. Employees are interested in knowing what is going on. Maintain as much contact with them as possible. When given a question about which you don’t know the answer, you can say, “I don’t know, but I’ll attempt to find out.” It can also indicate acknowledging that you don’t know the answer and are unlikely to find out, like in the case of questions about the possibility of staff reductions. While the response may not be to their liking, employees are more inclined to accept the situation.
Contact People Directly
Electronic communications should only be used to confirm what you’ve informed folks in person. When Tomah Products bought Shell Chemical’s specialty surfactant business, there was a lot of uncertainty. Steven King, the firm’s president and owner, personally met with all of the employees who would be joining his company as part of the acquisition to clear up any confusion and put people’s minds at ease. He and I (as manager of pulp and paper research and sales) went around to all of our leading clients to convince them that their services would not be disrupted or that the products they bought from us would not alter. Tomah Products could keep all of these clients despite our competitors’ best efforts because of efficient communication.
When a message affects a global workgroup or department, the entire laboratory or multiple laboratories worldwide use modern communications technologies to speak directly to personnel. To account for time zone changes, rebroadcast your presentation. Choose a location and time that will have the least amount of distractions.
Use Active Listening Skills in Practice.
During conversations with employees, be a good listener. Maintain eye contact and adopt a posture that signals engaged listening. To ensure that people get the message you’re attempting to deliver, ask open-ended questions. To show that you understand what they’re saying, nod or make affirmative motions or comments.
If required, take notes. This shows that you’re paying attention to what the other people in the conversation are saying and that you’re interested in what they have to say.
Be open-minded and respectful of your coworkers’ views and perspectives. Allowing your eyes to stray, folding your arms, or turning away from someone are all examples of careless message senders. These expressions suggest dissatisfaction, disinterest, or a lack of regard. Keep in mind that your body language can reveal a lot about your mindset.
Develop a Style of Participatory Management
The practice of empowering employees to participate in corporate decision-making is known as participative management. Employees are more likely to be active listeners and turn communication into a two-way process. Information flows to and from the boss because they are actively involved in decision-making.
Seek advice from your personnel regularly. They have a different viewpoint than you because they are “in the trenches.” This means they can offer valuable insight into research issues, client demands and attitudes, and what’s going on among your company’s suppliers. Obtaining this information is frequently necessary for identifying new business prospects or detecting developing difficulties in the company. In addition, you are more likely to garner respect from your employees if you actively seek input and suggestions from them.
Encourage your staff to seek answers to their questions. Then make sure that all of their queries are addressed. Finally, make yourself accessible to your coworkers. Exercising “managing by walking around” is a good idea (MBWA). MBWA isn’t just a walk through the labs and offices; it’s a concerted effort to learn about your employees’ jobs and how you can help them do them better. Informal conversations can be both enlightening and stimulating. MBWA can also be a powerful tool for preventing or limiting the negative consequences of workplace rumors.
MBWA encourages two-way communication as well. Your employees will be more willing to tell you what’s going on if they regard you as a person rather than just a boss. You’ll have the opportunity to learn about problems before they become problematic. You’ll obtain a deeper grasp of the work processes of your employees. As your employees get to know you better, they’ll have more faith in you and be more willing to offer information on a timely basis.
Interacting with your employees boosts their sense of accountability for meeting deadlines and achieving objectives. In addition, casual conversations generate many innovative ideas, and MBWA enhances the frequency of these exchanges.
When practicing MBWA, make sure to include all members of your team. Don’t overlook some of your coworkers to spend more time with your favorites. Also, once you’ve started a habit, stick with it. MBWA is not a switch that can be turned on and off. For it to be effective, you must practice it regularly.
Carefully Choose Your Words.
Both oral and written communication requires precision and clarity. Precision refers to saying precisely what you mean. Clarity refers to expressing something so that the recipient understands it. Precision and clarity are related, although being precise without being transparent or vice versa is conceivable. For example, long, complex sentences are more difficult to comprehend than simple, plain sentences.
When English is a second language for some of your employees, achieving precision and clarity becomes more difficult. Make sure your vocabulary is appropriate for your target audience. The cultural setting influences slang and colloquial terms. Immigrants to the United States and Canada may be unfamiliar with slang’s cultural context. Even though English is a shared language, Americans and Canadians can misunderstand each other when the cultural background differs. Slang from American football, basketball, and baseball, for example, is frequently utilized in conversations. These analogies will perplex your audience if they aren’t fans.
Context may be determined by how each listener interprets what you say. “As soon as feasible,” for example, can imply different things to different people. As a result, assigning particular dates to deadlines is beneficial.
Effective communication necessitates ongoing thought and effort. It is, however, definitely worth the effort.
Effective Communication Obstacles
The following are some of the obstacles to efficient communication:
The term “Semantic Barriers” guides to miscommunication between sender and recipient driven by differing definitions of expressions and different signs employed in communication. Semantic barriers occur when details are not registered in plain speech and comprise terms or characters with numerous purposes. The following are the most influential linguistic borders:
- The message is poorly written, and the language employed is so harsh that the recipient may mistake it.
- There are different words with different meanings, and due to differences in educational and social backgrounds, people frequently get confused with these words and interpret them differently.
- The sender may make assumptions about some things that he believes the receiver should be aware of and focus only on the subject matter. However, in the case of a special message, if the assumptions are vague and unfamiliar to the recipient, the communication may suffer.
- Engineers, production managers, IT managers, and others in technical groups frequently employ technical jargon in their communications, which is difficult for laypeople to grasp. As a result, using technical language in communication can be a barrier.
- The term “organizational barriers” refers to impediments in the flow of information among employees that might lead to a company’s commercial failure.
- Psychological or Emotional Barriers refer to a person’s psychological condition, such as their opinions, attitudes, status consciousness, emotions, and so on, which significantly impact their capacity to communicate. Communication is highly dependent on a person’s mental state; if a person is not mentally or emotionally sound, he will not communicate successfully as a sender or receiver.
When the receiver listens solely with his ears and does not use his intellect, the efficiency of the communication process is harmed. Frequently, the receiver listens to what he wants to hear and pays little attention to other aspects of the information, obstructing successful communication.
This issue emerges when a person is impatient and prioritizes their goal. He listens to the parts of the material that are useful to him and help him achieve his goal, and he ignores the rest. Also, the communication process worsens if the sender and recipient are unfamiliar with the topic matter. Frequently, the sender employs phrases that are difficult for the receiver to understand correctly, resulting in a communication breakdown.
As a result, various personal factors, which vary from person to person, have a significant impact on communication and may obstruct the communication’s intended purpose.