Strictly Business

Tuesday, Mar 26 2013 12:00 PM

ROBIN PAGGI: Communication and supervision

BY ROBIN PAGGI Contributing columnist

When Jack Dorsey invented Twitter, he changed the way we communicate, according to the "60 Minutes" correspondent who interviewed him for the March 17 show. For those who don't tweet, Twitter is an online social networking service that enables its 200 million users to send and read text-based messages that can be read by anyone in the world.

Ironically, Dorsey admitted on the show that one of his biggest weaknesses is communication and indicated he was even ousted from the company he co-founded because of his lack of communication skills.

Dorsey is certainly not alone in being a boss with poor communication skills. In his article "Characteristics of really bad bosses," Clinton O. Longenecker cites a study whose respondents say many things that make a boss a bad one are related to poor communication skills, such as:

* Misrepresenting the truth and lying.

* Failing to create clear direction and performance expectations.

* Feedback and recognition issues.

* Bad communication skills and practices.

There are two primary problems for employers who are poor communicators or who have supervisors who are poor communicators: They lose good employees, and they cause lawsuits.

The bad news is that being an effective communicator does not come naturally for most people. The good news is that communicating effectively is a skill that can be learned. Here are some tips to assist in that effort, courtesy of the article "Top 10 supervisory survival tools for 2013" on lexology.com. These tips are simply common sense; however, as writer/activist Voltaire noted, "Common sense is not so common."

* Tell the truth, especially in your documentation. Sugarcoating the truth on a performance evaluation and then firing the person for poor performance has led to lawsuits.

* Be clear and direct yet tactful and respectful. Failure to do so causes people to leave. As the saying goes, people don't quit companies, they quit their supervisors.

* Avoid unpleasant surprises by speaking up. One of my favorite sayings is "silence equals permission." If an employee does something wrong, say something. Not saying anything until you're ready to fire someone causes unpleasant surprises and inspires revenge from the ousted employee.

* Think before you "send." Be aware that your emails could end up as trial exhibits.

* Always remember that you are the boss and that your communication can and will be used against you. The authors of the "Top 10" article said it best: "Unguarded, inappropriate, or 'joking' comments can and do come back to haunt supervisors who forget this. When an employment relationship goes bad, seemingly innocuous comments often emerge. Comments made in jest rarely look good in front of a jury."

Composer John Powell said, "Communication works for those who work at it." Because communicating effectively requires time and energy, it is work. Is it worth the effort? Dorsey probably thinks so. Evidently, he improved his as he was invited back to Twitter and is now leading the company in creating more technology, which will no doubt result in an ungodly amount of revenue.

Improving your communication skills might not make you rich, but it will certainly help you retain good employees and reduce the risk of spending your time and energy on lawsuits instead of on your business.

-- Robin Paggi is the training coordinator at Worklogic HR Legal Solutions. She can be reached at rpaggi@worklogiclegal.com. These are her opinions, not necessarily those of The Californian.

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