Published: 3 years ago

Right Talk, Right Time, Right Tone.

Not long ago I was dining at a restaurant and headed to the restroom to wash my hands (because good hygiene is important, kids). As I made my way to the soap-and-water destination, I passed the entrance to the kitchen and saw this sign:

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In case you can’t read it: “Stop asking to change sch [schedule]: request off or quit!!”

Now it’s important to note: I wasn’t walking through the kitchen. I wasn’t trying to look in the kitchen. This notice was roughly three feet outside of the main corridor from the dining room to the restroom. If I could see it with my 41 year old eyeballs, anybody could see it.

There are a lot of directions one could go with this sign: it’s a symptom of a broken culture. It’s a desperate attempt by a manager to gain some control of his workforce. It’s a written explosion of a long-festering problem.

At the very least, it’s a really poor way of communicating. Oh, it’s communication, to be sure, but it’s communicating far more than the author probably wanted to:

  • I can only bring order to this place by asserting threats.
  • I don’t want to have tough conversations face-to-face, so I’m going to yell at you with a Sharpie.
  • You can’t come to me with your personal issues. There are two alternatives: get to work or hit the road.

But beyond those things, it communicates far beyond the intended audience. Again: this sign was right off the main thoroughfare. When I saw it, it didn’t matter how good the food would be or how helpful the server was. That sign told me a lot about the establishment where I was dining.

What does your communication to your team say? Does your written word communicate warmth or control? Do you inadvertently speak in an “us” vs. “them” tone?

Conversations and communication is important, but it’s more important that you have conversations early before the topic spins out of control. And it’s vital that you value the person in the midst of the problem.

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