By Bailey Penrose
“I’m just a soul whose intentions are good
Oh Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood”
– The Animals (Cover, 1964)
Everyone just wants to be heard. I don’t think anyone would dispute that point, especially in an age where it’s easier than ever to broadcast to a larger audience – a blog post, a YouTube video, a Tweet. However, in this new world of instant communication and sharing, there seems to be a growing sense of isolation as we focus more on screens than each other.
That feeling of isolation can affect our working lives too. Have you ever run into the situation where you send an email that seems friendly yet direct, but is received like the opening salvo to an office equivalent of WWIII? I have been the culprit on more than one occasion. An email just seemed so much cleaner, more efficient. If I’d actually spoken face-to-face with my coworker (the email recipient) in the last week I would have learned that they were buried in work or going through a rough time personally. That email that I thought was phrased so nicely hit a nerve and now we needed damage control.
Because of this scenario, I am huge proponent of responding to that occasional maddening email sitting malevolently in your inbox with a phone call, “Hey, good morning! Yes, I got the email. I think I hear what you need, but I’m not sure I understand the tone. Can you help me with your goal and deadline on this?”
Instant communication is a tool and it’s one that has revolutionized the world as well as our workplaces. This revolution comes with some new challenges though. Work email is easily accessible from personal devices, response time expectations are speeding up, and coworkers are spread across the country or even the world. How can you keep up with the work and still have time to ask your coworkers or customers how their kids/dog/sick-aunt are doing?
I don’t have an answer. There is no one-size fits all answer to that question. All I’m saying is that I think it’s important the we try.
Companies focus on employee engagement to boost production, vendors focus on customer experience to expand their market, and teams focus on cohesion to accomplish goals. These things are only possible if we listen to one another and seek to understand. This is not the Matrix; people are still important.
By the way, how are you today?