How do you feel when the phone rings?
Don’t assume everyone has the same answer
How do you feel when a colleague calls you rather than emailing?
For some people a phone call is a way to be more personal. They like to break up their day with a friendly chat. They might use it as a way to get away from their screen and have a walk while they talk something through.
For others there is nothing more terrifying than the sound of their ringtone, especially if it’s someone more senior calling. A phone call is only appropriate when something is incredibly urgent and important, and when all other avenues of communication have been tried.
In this disparity, one of the biggest challenges of hybrid working becomes clear.
We all have different expectations and preferences when it comes to how we communicate. And that’s fine. But we need to be careful not to assume that everyone shares that world view – or that they can see what ours is.
And sometimes these small misunderstandings cause big problems.
I’ve spoken to managers who think they direct reports are avoiding them because they don’t pick up. I’ve spoken to team members who feel hounded by the same managers.
On both sides trust starts to erode, people start to feel stressed, and work gets harder to do.
Hybrid working means we need to be explicit about this stuff. We need to share our preferences and expectations and come to a shared agreement on how communication will be managed.
A team charter is a brilliant way to do this. This can set out really clearly which channels should be used and when, and what the expectations are for a response.
For example, is an email non-urgent or get-back-to-me-today? If there’s a deadline should that always be clear in the subject line? If you are copied in just for info, should your name be in cc so you know nothing is expected of you?
It might sound overly punctilious, but you’ll be amazed how much impact it has.
If you’d like an external facilitator to support you with the process, I offer a one day Working Together Better workshop (on or offline) which identifies your shared purpose and values, and helps you draw up a team charter that works for you.
Get in touch if you’d like to know more.
Thanks for reading Human to Human! If you don’t already, please subscribe to get future emails direct to your inbox.