Communications barrage is burying managers

opinion piece

People in business are being buried in internal and external communications that come by email, voicemail, 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, according to a US-wide survey by NFI Research.

While a third of those surveyed say they receive significantly too many communications, only 3% say they send significantly too many.

The most cited culprit when it comes to volume of communication is email.

“The worst offender is the email that copies to 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,” says one survey respondent.

Another says: “One of the biggest problems I experience is the lack of email etiquette on the part of those who tend to copy everyone or don’t pay attention to who the target audience is. As such, emails can be of no value to me, unclear in the message or have an actionable item within the text but [which] is lost among the amount of words.”

Unfortunately, some business people send emails rather than dealing with issues directly, one on one.

“My major complaint is with people who fire off a poorly conceived email (or worse, a series of them) rather than dialing the phone or walking down the hall for a simple face-to-face discussion that solves the problem faster and more effectively,” one manager says.

Another agrees. “Unfortunately, it seems that I receive too much mass communication and not enough of the effective, problem-solving kind,” he says.

“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 dehumanising people with whom I may not fully agree.”

Part of the 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 of communications.

“The problem at my organisation isn’t the amount of communication, but the quality of what is communicated,” another respondent says.

“Things that the staff want 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,” says another.

And yet another manager says, “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 realise 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 recipients might appreciate receiving one less communication added to their pile.

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