The Five Ws to Avoiding Communication Overload
Communication is key, or so they say. However, I would argue that this phrase is lacking an essential word to make it true in today’s workplace. I would reason that the phrase should be “meaningful communication is key” or even “pertinent communication is key”, as we live in a time where communication is easily accessible and is often overused as a result. If you feel like you are constantly being bombarded by work calls, emails, instant messages and texts, take a step back and consider how you are adding to the communication overload in your workplace. Afterall, a crucial part of addressing any issue is recognizing our own contribution to the problem. Even if you don’t consider yourself guilty of overcommunicating, take a second to mentally run through the 5 W’s (who, what, where, when and why) the next time that you are getting ready to push “send”. By quickly going through this list, you can avoid adding more unnecessary communication in the workplace and possibly set an example for your coworkers.
Who: Who are you communicating with? Ask yourself who your audience currently is versus who it should be. Resist the urge to send out blanket emails or group texts, though it may seem like the easier choice. Truly consider who you are trying to communicate with and limit your communication to just them. After all, how many times have we received texts or emails that don’t pertain to us or our job functions?
What: What is the message that you are trying to convey? Before sending out an email or scheduling a conference call, make sure that you know what the purpose of your message or call is. Knowing “what” will help you to condense your message and stay on topic.
Where: Where are your attempts at communication going? Are they going to a coworker’s email or phone? Make sure that you know the preferred method of communication of your coworkers. If you know that Sally in accounting likes to keep her phone in her desk while she is at work, send her an email or instant message instead. Make sure that your message goes where it will actually be seen.
When: When are you sending out texts and emails? It is important to recognize that not everyone is a night owl, and hearing the “ding” from receiving a new text at 2:00am will not go over well. Also, respect when your coworkers have time off; whether that is during the weekend or a vacation. When you communicate with coworkers can impact how well they receive that communication.
Why: Why are you sending out a text or making a phone call? This question will help you to assess if it is truly necessary to text, call, email, etc. your coworker, or if what you have to say can wait until you bump into them.
While transparency is necessary to efficiently run a business, it is also important that communication doesn’t overload or overwhelm you team. Keep the five W’s in mind the next time you are getting ready to send your coworker a text or email!