I’ve been told that I over communicate from time to time – I like to think it’s a good thing – that I’m transparent – that I’m keeping everyone in the loop – but in fact – over communicating is as bad as under communicating. Over communicating usually starts because someone told you that you don’t communicate enough – so you go right-ditch, left-ditch in your attempt to correct – you over-correct. Great communicators say what needs to be said, when it needs to be said and to whom it needs to be said – nothing more, nothing less.
So, what does Over Communicating say about you:
– That you can’t put together a clear and concise thought.
– That you don’t have buy-in from the group/person you are trying to communicate with, so you keep communicating hoping that will make them buy-in (this is the I’m going to keep talking until you cave into my way of thinking person – and you know – it works to often!)
– That you don’t value other peoples time.
– That you don’t know your audience.
– That what you have to say is more important than what others have to say or believe.
– That you like to hear yourself talk, or read the words you write.
Over communicating comes in many forms, but the one that drives me absolutely crazy is what I call the One Size Fits All Communication. This is when a person has a specific problem or issue with something – but instead of directly communicating with the individual that can solve the problem – they communicate with a blanket approach. See if this sounds familiar:
Mary isn’t coming into work on time – it’s not terrible, she is only 5 or 10 minutes late, or she’s there on time, but it’s running in the door right at 8am, and then isn’t settled down and working until 8:15am. Everyone else in Mary’s department is there before their start time and working when they should. Pam the supervisor sends out a memo to the entire staff reminding them when the staff starting time is, and what is expected. She goes on to tell the staff what discipline will ensue if this rule isn’t followed (up to and including Termination! Us HR folks love the phrase “up to and including termination” – I should sell t-shirts that say that!).
Very familiar, right?! You’ve probably seen one of these memos in the last 90 days!
What does this say about this leader? Clearly, they are conflict avoidant and lack the ability to deal with problems head on. The problem with this approach is that the leader loses credibility with the rest of her staff. They all get it – they all know Mary is a slacker and taking advantage – then Pam goes off and slaps each of their hands for something Mary is doing. Many times, over communicators are individuals that fear direct conflict, and their over communication is a veil drawn over their fear to deal with problems head-on.
What can you do? Be straightforward. Check for understanding and clarity. Move on.