The corporate world is filled with phrases and buzzwords. They are at the heart of every message that is sent, meeting that is held, conversation that is had. We’ve all heard them, used them, laughed about them but in many ways, they are at the heart of the organizational communication breakdown.
There isn’t a formal definition for those phrases and buzzwords but if there were, they might go something like this:
“At the end of the day” – lead into a summary of what the person believes to be the final truth following a conversation that has left something unresolved.
“Circle back” – a technique used when the answer is not known. Requires follow-up which may or may not occur. Sometimes used as a way to dismiss a person’s question with no intention of ever “circling back”.
“I know you have a lot on your plate but….” – acknowledgment that the person already has too much to do but will continue to get more until they are not able to continue to produce quality. Frequently results in blame of the person for not producing the quality work they once did and confusion as to why.
“That’s a difficult discussion” – a dismissive phrase used when being asked to bring up an issue to leadership. When this phrase is used, it is discounting that the person talking is having a difficult discussion with the person they are talking to. Frequently the person speaking has identified something that is a root cause of a problem that affects many.
“Let’s take that off-line” – used when there is a large group and a topic comes up that might lead to a “difficult discussion”. Frequently the larger group is the right audience and the off-line discussion never occurs or occurs with those that aren’t willing to have the “difficult discussion” it requires.
“Transparency” – sharing of partial information. Can feel more like a fuzzy view through treated glass like found on a shower door.
The feedback loop to leadership is damaged. Damaged much by their own doing. If your culture is based on the above phrases you are allowing corporate culture to stop the feedback loop. You are not allowing for the natural flow of a conversation where problems can be discussed, common ground can be explored and solutions for the good of all can be discovered. You will never know what is best for someone else unless you ask them. You will never know how they feel about something you have said or how it affects them unless you ask them their thoughts.
If we want to make real change in our workplaces we need to stop covering up those topics that are difficult. We need to identify them. We need to determine who is impacted by them. We need to set our titles aside and discuss them openly and honestly. We need to put away our egos and our pre-conception of what others believe and actually inquire and listen to what they believe. We need to look at the truths that surround the issues. Find a common ground, albeit small, and build from the common ground instead of attempting to build from that which we disagree. We will be able to identify solutions for many because the collective thoughts of many will always outweigh the limited thoughts of one.