I’m reading the newest issue of TD/Talent Development magazine and the editorial/Hot Topic is “Curtail Chaos in Digital Workplace Communication.“ I think to myself, I should give this a fast read, it’s an important topic… in fact, I have suffered the consequences of abrupt, incomplete, task-oriented missives that ignore the humanity of all involved (as I am sure you have too.)
I get into the article, and I say to myself, “Oh yes! This is exactly what I’ve been experiencing in a few of my work relationships.” The author Derrick Thompson, cites the white paper, Conversation Chaos in the Digital Age, by Fierce CEO Susan Scott. “It’s likely that remote team members have not had a single face-to-face encounter with coworkers during the past year. Scott explains that those spontaneous break room chats that many workers take for granted can help build trust and rapport.”
So the experience that most concerns me, at this moment, is working with folks I have never met face-to-face in person or only once or twice before the pandemic. In our work for the organization, we gather once a month for a group meeting and communicate primarily through Slack. In one relationship in particular, I have never had the opportunity to have other-than-work-related conversations. When this individual and I communicate, it’s always to address a problem or the (unsolicited) suggestion of an idea that feels like it has an edge to it. (Of course, that’s my perception of the communication, I do not know its intent, just its impact on me.) We’ve had little time to develop any relationship or to work together and celebrate successes. As you can imagine this is a situation ripe for misunderstanding… and it’s happened more than once. I am troubled by this situation because in general, we both appear to be nice folks.
What is happening?
What can I do differently? (As change begins with me.)
As luck would have it, serendipitously, we have recently been given a task to do together.
Before the meeting, I worked to gain a larger perspective on the situations and us, and to consider this a fresh start (a bit of beginner’s mind/being present to just that moment, leaving history behind). I also remembered a similar situation, a disconnect with a colleague, and my response to that challenge. I picked up the book Dynamic Relationships, by Jaqueline M. Stavros and Cheri B. Torres, and gained new knowledge, skills, and practices. I can’t recommend the book highly enough!
Perhaps not surprisingly, the experience went really well. We were able to show up, in part because we had the time to interact just a little socially, and because we had to work together to achieve the task. I am heartened by this result!
In thinking more about the TD article though, I am troubled by the omission of what it means to bring our whole selves to work and relationships. “A more effective way to begin these conversations (giving feedback) is to provide a fact-based, objective example of what you observed and then ask the other person to share their experience.”
While I am all about speaking of the facts, (though they are seen through our own lenses), I remain concerned that there is no acknowledgment of the role that emotions play in our thinking and behavior. Whether we recognize our feelings or not, they live within us all the time, influencing our thoughts and perceptions. My conviction around this belief has led to extensive reading, training, and practice in the field of Nonviolent Communication (compassionate communication). Awareness of ourselves and others, and working with our emotions to co-create relationships is the place where I begin… sometimes I begin again and again… and that’s a good practice!
In response to the impact of the pandemic on interpersonal work relationships, I am offering sessions for teams and groups in organizations who wish to experience the joy of virtual visual collaboration. Colleagues can come together to create team guidelines for collaboration, work on a joint project, generate a strategic plan, a roadmap, or… the sky’s the limit. I invite you to imagine how you want your work relationships to develop over the next few months, read through the short document* that describes the essence of the offering, and reach out to me for a conversation.