Merge's Blog

Are contra-indications reducing your workplace communication effectiveness?

As a leader, your workplace communication needs to be effective.  It isn’t enough to communicate well with your employees; it’s just as important to make sure that the message is received clearly.  And for that to happen, you need to consider “contra-indications” — both “timing” and “background noise”.  Let me explain.

workplace communicationRecently, my doctor prescribed a once-daily two-week course of a fairly strong antibiotic for a low-grade bacterial infection that has been troubling me for a while.  Since I take a few multivitamins and supplements every morning with breakfast, I simply added this capsule to the daily quota.  A few days later, I happened to mention to my best friend that the antibiotics weren’t having an impact as quickly as I’d hoped.  She asked for the name of the antibiotic and (since she works in medicine) she immediately looked up the drug in an online database on her phone.

Oh no!

“Did you know that minerals such as calcium and magnesium are contra-indications to this antibiotic?” she asked.

“No”, I responded. “Why?”

“Well that means that if you are taking any mineral supplements at the same time that you take this antibiotic, it will significantly reduce its effectiveness,” she patiently explained.

Oops!  I was taking both calcium and magnesium supplements at exactly the same time as the antibiotic.  Apparently, I needed to separate the antibiotic from these minerals by at least two hours!  And yes, I should have known that … that is, if I had read the circular that came with my prescription.  My bad!!

Contra-indications in workplace communication?

Leaving aside the fact that I didn’t properly read the materials that came with the drugs, this situation got me thinking about how there are so many other situations in life and work when we inadvertently reduce the effectiveness of what we are doing, simply by not thinking about the contra-indications.  Here are a couple of workplace communication examples that I have observed repeatedly.

You share the positive quarterly results with your team at your regular weekly department meeting, and acknowledge the concerted teamwork it took to get there.  But you then immediately follow with “Let’s not get too excited though.  We still have a challenging few months coming up that could have a negative impact on results.”  Would have it been wiser to wait a few days to let the team enjoy the glow of success?  And then bring up the upcoming challenges in the next weekly meeting?

You make it a point to thank one of your co-workers for helping you meet a deadline.  But minutes later, you send him a curt response to an email because you don’t agree with his opinion on the topic under discussion.  Without meaning to, you’ve just reduced the effectiveness of the earlier compliment.  Might the previous positive feedback have meant more if you’d waited a few hours before tactfully responding to his current email?

I’d love to know what you think?  Is it worthwhile to consider “contra-indications” – both your “timing” and the “background noise” – when it comes to workplace communication?  Or is easier and less complicated to simply say what you mean when you need to?  After all, we’re working with adults who should be able to handle negative messages.  I’d love to hear your perspective.  Please share your thoughts by adding your comment below.

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