Think of a time when you were minding your own business, right in the middle of your daily grind. Up pops the email icon on your PC, perhaps accompanied by that familiar written tone we all know so well. You stop what you are doing; knowing full well that whatever is in your inbox can surely wait, and rush to see what waits. It’s from your boss and the subject line reads “Report Question”. Your heartbeat ratchets up a notch as you go to click on the message. “What did I do wrong?” you wonder out loud as the email opens to full screen. You see the words “What is this?” with a print screen below showing the report you had just turned in.
With great anxiety you spend the next 30 minutes trying to figure out what error you have made. Not able to find anything glaring, you take the next 30 minutes trying to figure out how to respond. Finally after an hour of zero productivity, you summon the courage to print off a copy and walk over to the boss’ desk and explain that you have no idea what was wrong with your report. Sensing your anxiety, the boss starts laughing and says, “You spelled your name wrong.” Embarrassed and relieved you look closer, see your name spelled incorrectly and start laughing, too.
Crisis averted, right? Maybe not. This scenario is somewhat commonplace and as we dig deeper into why candidates leave organizations, communication with their boss, or the lack thereof, is often the culprit. So, if your boss regularly attacks you via email, as the boss in this scenario, you are likely gun-shy and defensive when messages like, “What is this?” pop up.
Email is a great signpost, or benchmark invention, that has been spurred by the technological wave during the last 100 years. Email has been paramount to increased corporate productivity with the ability to transfer data and knowledge easily across the world instantly. Like every other gadget that has reached critical mass in our lives, there is the tendency to rely too heavily upon them and get a bit lazy. Allowing email to creep in as the primary method of interoffice communication can be deadly.
The dynamics of inter-office communication is perhaps the single most important aspect of employee engagement. As we have found, most employees don’t leave companies, they leave managers. Although none of the individuals I have interviewed in my four years with Aureus Group have told me they desired a close personal friendship with their boss, a vast majority have said that they do desire a professional relationship built on great communication.
A boss has implied power over his or her subordinates and because of that will always have the upper hand in communication dynamics. A good boss understands this and works to mitigate its effect on interaction with employees. A great boss tears down those walls by always encouraging open communication and never using email or instant messenger when the situation calls for a face-to-face meeting, or a phone call.
We encourage all professionals, not just managers, to take a minute before writing an email to determine if it is the best way to communicate your message. If it is, read it a few times to be sure the context is clear, and the message simple. Taking care of these fundamentals of proper office communication certainly aid in the retention of your most valued employees.
About Nate Elgert
Nate was born and raised in Lincoln, Neb., graduated from Lincoln East High School, and went on to The University of Missouri at Kansas City (UMKC) where he was a four year letter-winner on the men’s golf team earning a bachelor’s degree in communication in 1999. Nate took a winding road back to Lincoln that led through Phoenix, Des Moines, Chicago, back to Kansas City, and then finally Lincoln once again in 2005. Before coming to Aureus Group in 2006 as an account manager in the Lincoln Accounting and Finance office, Nate was a golf professional, an advertising rep, and a mortgage lender. Currently, Nate is a senior account manager. He enjoys playing basketball, golf, and time with his wife Angie, his daughter Sofia, 2. Nate and Angie welcomed their second little girl in May.