April 29th, 2016
What Kelly Ripa Taught Us about Communication in the Workplace
Have you ever been left out of the loop of an important business decision? Pretty much anyone who’s ever worked in an office setting can attest to the frustration that comes with a lack of communication and consideration. These two “soft skills” come into play frequently in office politics, and their absence will almost always breed chaos, calamity and at the very least, a dispute. Kelly Ripa, co-host of the popular morning talk show “Live! With Kelly and Michael” has recently emerged from a weeklong brouhaha after she felt “blindsided” by ABC’s announcement that her co-host, Michael Strahan, would leave the show to become a co-anchor on “Good Morning America.”
The actress claimed she was given next to no warning about the announcement of what would normally be a routine personnel move, and she felt slighted that after 15 years hosting the show, her bosses would put her in such an awkward position. Apparently, the network informed her of the decision about 30 minutes before the news went public. “What transpired over the course of a few days has been extraordinary in the sense that it started a much greater conversation about communication and consideration, and more importantly, respect in the workplace,” Ripa said on the show Tuesday, following a dubious and highly disputed three-day absence.
What lessons can employers learn from the recent talk show saga?
Trust your people.
Look, you didn’t hire a bunch of incompetent people. If you did, well that was a poor management decision on your part. You need to be able to trust your employees without hovering over them like a helicopter. When employees feel like they have autonomy, they’re more likely to be engaged with their jobs and be more invested in the long term. They’ll experience a sense of purpose, which is a fundamental human need. If they feel like they’re being babysat, however, they’re more likely to be insecure, unmotivated and anxious. As long as you provide your staff with the tools they need to do their jobs, and the freedom to do them, you’ll cultivate a culture of trust.
Promote employee ownership.
If you want your company to be built on trust, actually listen to your employees. Ask for feedback frequently via surveys and allow employees to vote on important issues. Make sure to educate everyone on the issues at hand to ensure they’ll be informed voters. Transparency is key when it comes to employee ownership: management should not keep secrets from its employees. Open your doors and your books, revealing the details of business operations, sales, costs and profits. Company-wide “town hall” meetings and annual reports are both appropriate forums for such disclosure. The idea of relinquishing control over certain aspects of your business may seem frightening, but hear this: employees who feel ownership are far more motivated than those who are treated like pawns.
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Remove your emotions.
Knee-jerk reactions are human, but in the business world, professionalism is about controlling one’s emotions. When diverse personalities converge in a workplace, discussions can easily turn into personal attacks. If an employee or colleague gets under your skin, take a deep breath and count to 10 before responding in a calm, cool and collected manner. Replace personal insults with a diplomatic dose of constructive criticism.
Many times during conversation, we find ourselves thinking ahead to what we’re going to say next (or of something totally unrelated like what we want for lunch) and we’re not really paying attention to what the other person is saying. We hear, but we don’t listen.
Here are some handy “listening hacks” you can use to become a more active listener:
- Pretend there will be a quiz at the end of the conversation. Try to keep a mental checklist of all the important points the speaker makes. Afterwards, try to write down (or recall silently in your head) at least three things the person said.
- When it’s your turn to talk, rephrase what the other person said. For example, you might say “Let me make sure I understand: you’re telling me we’re missing an opportunity to promote product X online.” Repeating and paraphrasing demonstrates that you were listening to the other person and you actually care what they said.
5. Respect differences.
The prevalence of telecommuting and contracting means we work more frequently with colleagues from different backgrounds and cultures. As a result, management must learn to be aware of subtle differences in the way people interpret words and behaviors, and create a culture that’s understanding of and sensitive to the needs of all employees. Personality types also come into play in the workplace. Have your team take the Myers Briggs personality test, and take time to understand how the different personality types interact with each other. You’ll discover that certain employees receive messages differently from others, and you may need to alter your delivery for each individual.
Effective verbal and nonverbal communication is critical to employee morale, professional relationships and productivity. The thing is, great communication doesn’t magically happen. It has to be fostered across all departments and all generations, from the top down. Implementing the above tips will help you do just that—and avoid talk-show-like turmoil in your own workplace.
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