How do we define professional communication?

Friday, 12. 19. 2008  –  Category: My Opinion

Has anyone noticed how lately our working conditions are being affected by the new business communication standards? The type of communication which used to be unacceptable in not so distant past is pretty much the norm these days. More and more often we hear blatant statements how everyone is expendable, or this is not a democracy, and how discussing issues with your boss or superiors can result in you – to put it gently – being made redundant. True or false?

We often hear a "friendly" advice how it is better not to voice your opinions or show initiative, and how keeping quiet will increase your chances of keeping your job. So what happened to being "proactive"? Can anyone remember when this was in fact a desirable value? And do we remember the word "initiative" – and when was the last time you used it? …the actual initiative, not the word itself.

We can all sense when we are being addressed with negative, apprehensive or dominating attitude in both written and spoken communication. Most of those with common sense and good manners will try to ignore these incidents, or respond gently explaining how we do not appreciate the tone. Although I have to admit this was frequently the case with lower skillset employees and junior positions, it has been creeping up to all company floors, including management and executive levels.

The communication has lost its elegance, finesse, terminology, and most importantly – yes you’ve guessed it – the communication itself. We work if fear of discussing our opinions, voicing our comments and discussing issues which may be crucial for the business – and ultimately we stop communicating.

I seem to remember having some hard time learning the rules of both written and spoken communication at place of work. I remember attending courses to improve my communication skills and learn how to compose effective presentations, and what have you… going on Away Days with the team to work on improving internal communication, share our opinions about each other and sort out our differences. I suppose I can stick those experiences where the sun never shines. The terminology, the approach, the insistence on being polite (even when the situation suggests otherwise), was the whole new science, eloquently defined as "communication skills". Yes, the term still exists – but how much is it worth today?

It is an interesting phenomenon indeed, very much on an upraise and particularly in the last 3-5 years. As patterns go, you first run into one person, usually superior to your position, with a speech impediment preventing him/her to say please or thank you. And you choose to attach this inappropriate behaviour to that particular individual. However, this individual soon becomes a group, and this group grows, so before you can say "what the f***!?" this group takes over the whole environment – so welcome to your new workplace, except nobody bothered to rewrite your job description and your employee handbook.

Bottom line, don’t become a drone. Respect your colleagues and superiors – but demand respect in return. Not a tap on the shoulder or praises, but simply respect and acknowledgement. It is as simple as that. Yes, it may get you fired – but if the alternative is to lose your integrity and lower your professional standards I’d say the price is way too high.

There is one simple truth we should all remember: the business needs you just as much as you need the work. Yes, this may sound a little on the idealistic side but after all it is the truth – we all need to make sure to always remember that.

Speak up.

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