Avoid Communication Minefields
When it comes to business—or anything in life—it makes total sense to avoid landmines. And for the purpose of this tip, by “landmines,” I mean stepping into trouble by saying the wrong thing to the wrong person. The minute you do it, you immediately know you’ve made a mistake. You can’t take it back, and things can seemingly blow up right before you. A prime example of this is when you share something that’s confidential in nature with the wrong person at work. Catching us off-guard, our misspoken words can surface into something powerfully disruptive in minutes and wreak havoc. What’s more, one misstep in this area of communications can lead to dire consequences for you, your professionalism and your career. So avoid putting yourself in this situation altogether by being very deliberate about what you say, how you say it, and with whom you share it. Because you’re in a leadership position, the words you speak will always carry extra weight. Choose them carefully, and guard and use any privy information wisely.
Here are three more examples of “landmines” that can threaten your ability to communicate and lead with integrity.
We all know we should avoid this leadership sin. But it’s very common for people to get caught up in water-cooler talk, swapping stories about what they’ve heard or know about others. Not only is it disrespectful to the person being gossiped about, but it also sends the message that you can’t be trusted to others. Leaders who exhibit this caddy behavior unknowingly role model it for others, essentially giving people “permission” to talk and behave in this way, too. Consequently, gossip becomes an accepted and even ingrained part of the culture, undermining company morale and productivity. So don’t give in to gossip, no matter how “good” or fun it feels. When you hear the chit chat, move the conversation away from people and toward something that’s productive.
2. Badmouthing the boss.
At some point in our lives, we’ve all been guilty of talking about our bosses behind their back. No doubt, people sometimes feel they need to vent about their boss and sharing their frustrations with others at work seems like one good way to do it. But does it really help? No. It doesn’t solve any problems because 1) the boss remains blind to the issue and the need to address it; and 2) it can set you up for a situation in which you get “caught” by the boss because such talk almost always has a way of getting back to him or her, despite your best efforts to conceal it. The latter can certainly cause a lot of anguish, and I’ve seen friendships between co-workers fall apart when one worker told another something negative about the boss only to find out later that the confidant backstabbed the friend to get promoted by the boss. My best advice is if you have trouble with your boss, talk to your boss. If things can’t be remedied that way, then you’ve got other choices to make about whether you will want to remain at your job. But talking poorly about him or her displays a lack of confidence, personal initiative, and the ability to confront problems effectively.
3. Thoughtless talk.
Here, I’m referring to something you might say to someone directly but in a way that’s totally unmindful of how they might receive it or that’s outright disrespectful. A perfect example is when someone who is disrespectful to the assistant of a company president. It is a good bet that this situation won’t turn out good for the offender. Although the assistant doesn’t have the title, they have influence over the top person in the company. The best course of action: Always think before you speak, considering what you’re saying and whether it genuinely helps or hurts your situation.
What are some other examples of office “talk” that tends to be more hurtful versus helpful—how do you manage it?