Why should boys have all the fun? This is a tag line for one of the scooty advertisement. The line is catchy however I never thought about it seriously until I heard someone literally analyzing it. Analysis said “These girls do not know that boys cannot afford a four wheeler that is why they drive two-wheeler. After 9 hours of hard work, with a bag pack around their neck, when boys are standing under a flyover to avoid rain showers on a two wheeler, they are definitely not having fun.” Still the advertisement worked because people did not take the literal meaning of the tag line. Somewhere everyone felt that girls are suppressed and they should have some fun. This means “Words are not understood, the way they are said.”
Yes, you got it right, communication is a known devil. HR professionals cannot survive without it, be it recruitment, separation, performance management or change management. Official definition states that communication is the transfer of information (message) from one person (sender) to another (receiver). Although the definition highlights only three variables, actually there are more. Communication is a five step process; (1) sender decides on the information to share. (2) Sender articulates the information (3) sender transfers the information (4) Receiver receives the information and (5) Receiver interprets the information.
Basic problem with communication is that sender is not sure what information to transfer. There are two primary reasons – Clarity and Fear. In corporate environment, middle management either does not have clarity of the big picture or middle management is not sure whether they are authorized to communicate certain things to their next level. Interestingly they never check back. That is where most of the change management exercises fail and rumor mill starts. However solution is very simple. Communication must specify whether audience is expected to pass it further or hold it to themselves.
Articulation is a challenge because articulation is done based on a set of assumptions. Articulation means drafting the message in mode of communication (e.g. words). There is a place called Lucknow, city of jurisprudence and etiquettes. In Lucknow articulation of information is done so politely that the receiver gets the message and does not feel bad even when the message is harsh. There is a state called Haryana where articulation is very direct and blunt. People from Lucknow get offended while communicating with people from Haryana whereas Haryana people feel that it is very difficult to understand Lucknow guys as Lucknow guys do not come to the point. It is always better to articulate communication based on the assumptions of the receiver of the communication.
Transfer of information can happen in multiple ways (verbal, written, actions) and there are multiple languages, scripts, codes available to increase complexity. In Malaysia, a waiter asked me whether I would like to have tea with “Su Su” or without “Su Su”. Waiter meant milk and my understanding of Su Su was different (In India Su Su means urine). Similarly, one of my friends gave a mind blowing speech at a seminar. Afterwards he was shocked to know that 90% of his audiences were deaf and dumb. Mode of information transfer should be such that absence of a sense must not affect the delivery of information. Training professionals appreciated the fact and started designing their programs based on auditory, visual or kinesthetic preferences of their audience to prove that transfer of information is better when mode of transfer is decided based on audience preference.
Reception of information is another problem; Human senses drop 40% - 70% of the information being received from the environment. However each individual has a choice to select the information one wants to receive. Some of these choices are made by the conscious mind but a large portion of choices are made by the subconscious. Auditory reception drops approximately 60% information because pace of receiving the information is decided by the sender. Repetition of message is a good way to improve reception. Listen to songs of Himesh Reshamiya to realize power of repetition. Each hit song has a line which is repeated 16 times in the song. When the message is written, information retention is better than that of auditory because receiver decides the pace of receiving information. However, Making receiver reiterate the information transferred is a good way to ensure proper transfer of information.
The partially received information is again interpreted by receiver based on set of assumptions. Receiver assumptions can be very different from the sender assumptions. When I was working with Tata Motors, I heard a newly joined senior person bought a Tata vehicle and in the very first week, gear box broke down. I was thinking that the incident will tarnish image of the organization in his mind. Whereas organization image soared high in his mind, he was extremely happy to share that there was a small problem with the vehicle and these guys changed the entire gear box.
Most of the times, people unknowingly select reception and interpretation as per their convenience. Subconscious makes these convenient decisions for people based on their assumptions. Whenever an individual walks up to you with any query, it is extremely important to respond to it. Absence of response or “I will see” kind of responses set unrealistic expectations. Expectations are like balloons, they keep growing with time and then they burst with a boom. These booms can be avoided by timely responding to individuals. People are strong and know how to adjust to circumstances. Closing all the queries of individuals in writing and getting a written agreement on closure proves to be a best practice. Following the best practice, one of my HR colleagues introduced a declaration form for the new joiners, where new joiners declare that they understand their salary breakup and terms and conditions of their employment. The number of dispute cases went down drastically, which shows “Agreement in writing reduces interpretations for convenience.”I lived the” absence of response phenomenon” last week during my air travel to Bangalore, while check in, I asked for an emergency window seat. The counter girl smiled at me and gave me my boarding pass. After boarding I realized that it is neither an emergency row seat nor a window seat. Since I asked for it and the counter girl did not refuse, I conveniently assumed that I will get what I asked for. Learning is that “Absence of communication communicates the unintended even more strongly.” I still don’t know why counter girl did not communicate. Maybe she was thinking, why should boys have all the fun?
www.harjeetkhanduja.com by Harjeet Khanduja publishes HR relevant topics in layman language and redefines conventional concepts in current context without making HR too technical or complicated.