In today’s world, we are bombarded by media for communication. Technology has provided us a wide array of communication tools, from desk lines to cell phones, texting to instant messaging and email, and more. But how do we know when to use the appropriate form of communication? With so many choices, often we choose the most convenient method, when it is not always the best choice for the project, company, or ourselves.
- Think about your reason for communication. Is it a quick discussion with a peer to move forward with your work? A simple graphic question? Do you need confirmation on utility routing from a Civil consultant? Do you need approval from a manager before proceeding on to the next step in design?
- Know your audience. Do you have a software question for a Millennial? Or perhaps performance praise for a peer? Are you dealing with a Discipline Director? Inside the company, or external to the company? What are the personality traits of your audience? Do they prefer detailed information or are they quick and to the point? Does a little small talk help engage the listener?
- Know the situation. Is time a factor? Are you requesting information or dispensing it? Is there a need to document the conversation?
Let’s walk through the different communication tools and some good opportunities for using them.
- Personal – In person spoken communication is great for day to day interactions with your coworkers. You don’t need to inundate everyone’s mailbox with extraneous communication. Your listener can see your facial expressions and engage you in a dialogue. If you stop by someone’s desk, they can’t ignore your instant message or voicemail until they are ready to respond. Problems can be solved and discussed in minutes rather than hours as is often the case via email. This is great when time is of the essence.
- Telephone – For people who do not physically sit in your office, the telephone is the next best way to achieve the above effects. In a discussion, there is discourse. It also avoids misinterpretation of demeanor or language, which can occur with the written word. You can easily explain any misunderstandings. Sometimes, your contact can’t be reached and you need to leave a voicemail. You can try, best as you can, to imply tone and level of urgency in the voicemail left.
- Email – Email is great when you have multiple respondents and especially when you need documentation of the conversation for future reference. Important coordination and really anything that needs to be part of the project record should be emailed, with the appropriate parties copied. Use an email when you need to provide links or attachments as well. Links and attachments should not be sent in an instant message because these are easily closed and lost, and the recipient has to ask for them again.
- Instant messaging – Instant messaging can be a very effective tool in a number of situations. Instant messages are great when you need to communicate minor items quickly or schedule a more serious conversation, if you know your audience is busy and you want to give them the time to respond at their leisure, or when you or your contact are on a teleconference and you need some information from them without disturbing their call.
- Screen share – some instant messaging tools allow you to share your screen with a contact when visual communication is necessary. Our work is very visual, and when you can’t sit down shoulder to shoulder with your coworkers, sharing your screen in conjunction with a phone call is a great way to be crystal clear in coordinating documents and project items.
Technology should never get in the way of our communication, and often times it does. It’s important to remember that technology is a tool that is supposed to help us be more productive. And as with any tool, you need to use the right tool for the right job.
For more information on office communication, see the links below:
by Anthony Cortese, LLA, ASLA, LEED BD+C
Thanks for sharing. Keeping it simple and is a great quick cheat sheet for communicating project needs and improves efficiency.