Posted by: Zohair
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My purpose here is to try to use the concepts of overcommunication, hypocommunication, and miscommunication to figure out some common workplace communication problems.
Modern management theories pay a lot of attention to communication. That is because communication is at the foundation of all the psychosocial processes at the workplace: command, control, cooperation, coordination, delegation, information and feed-back. In other words, whatever are the external business environment and the internal management and production processes, communication is at the core of all of them.
Too many people are talking the talk of communication notably because it is a multidisciplinary concept. And that is why, I think, people invented words like overcommunication, hypercommunication, and hypocommunication. Needless to use a dictionary in order to understand what those words want to say. They are trying to address the quantitative aspect of communication. Miscommunication is another new word, which points out the situation where A tells B something and B understands some other thing that is completely different. Let us now try to use the concepts of overcommunication, hypocommunication, and miscommunication to figure out some common workplace communication problems.
I think everybody will agree that communication has to conform to the right quantity. If you do not have enough communication in your organization or workgroup, one or more of the psychosocial processes will fail and you will be at risk for not having the job done. Such a situation may be described as hypocommunication. Too much communication in the workplace, however, may generate several negative impacts whose seriousness depends on the communication content, the communicator roles, and the contextual elements. We can call that overcommunication. For example, I hold a monthly meeting with my developers in order to brief them on the company’s business news. Once a month is just enough communication. Overcommunication would be to do that every week. Hypocommunication would be a once-a-year event.
The misusage of communication does not relate only to its quantity. Communication must convey the right content between the right communicators at the right time. Otherwise, it may turn into miscommunication. This is a very subtle point. People often spend a lot of time talking about something they wrongly believe they have to talk about. Suppose you have a new project that starts after six months and implies coding in Smalltalk and your team has never used that language before. The following are miscommunication situations:
- Two developers who spend time discussing about Smalltalk then surfing the Web in order to find articles about it. This is miscommunication because it is not the right time to do it.
- You spend too much time talking about Smalltalk and OO programming with the sales manager. This is miscommunication because the latter is not supposed to learn Smalltalk in detail.
Such situations are really waste of time, effort and focus. Things become even worse when miscommunication causes conflicts and frustration. That may happen when senior management is involved. Here are some examples:
Senior management assigns tasks to developers without going through the manager. This would harm:
– The work schedule
– The manager’s authority
Senior management takes work effort estimation from developers without going through the manager. This would affect:
– The manager’s credibility because developers often try to impress the senior management and thus their estimation is too optimistic
– The manager’s authority because this would encourage developers to compete with him
Senior management attend software design meetings. Because developers often try to impress the senior management, such an event would affect:
– The meeting duration, because developers would talk too much
– The meeting agenda, because discussion would turn into arguing own opinions instead of objective debate
– The manager’s authority because developers would try to show they are smarter than him
– The team members’ relations, because some developers would try to demonstrate that others are wrong
– The meeting outcome because developers would push for wrong decisions just because they do not fit with others’ opinions