Distance is Destroying Dialogue

For many people, working from home has been a perk of the COVID-19 pandemic. The flexibility and autonomy workers desired for years became a forced reality overnight. But a new study from Crucial Learning, a leader in corporate learning and development, found that while work-from-home may have boosted employee satisfaction, it also negatively and significantly impacted a key performance indicator— communication.

In this blog, we outline six tips to holding conversations virtually. Teams that feel enabled and encouraged to speak up when they have questions, see concerns, or want to share a new perspective are more motivated, engaged, and productive

Hiding Behind a Screen

Without impromptu meet-ups and physical proximity, many people find it that much easier to let crucial conversations fester and grow. According to our online study of 1,145 people conducted earlier this year, people are more than twice as likely to avoid speaking up about concerns with colleagues and managers virtually than when they worked together in person. This silence has led to more unresolved issues that are harming employees and the organisation’s bottom line.

Feeling the Frustration

The silo of silence that can easily be built by working from home can be a breeding ground where concerns gather and grow. According to our research responses, top frustrations remote employees had with their co-workers or managers include:

  • Not following through with commitments
  • Making changes to projects unilaterally or without warning
  • Giving half-hearted commitment to their priorities
  • Didn’t give warning when they were going to miss a deadline

When these types of concerns and frustrations popped up before the pandemic, 22 percent of respondents say they let the problem drag on for a few weeks before trying to address the issue. But in the past year, that number has more than doubled. Now, 54 percent admit to letting their concerns go unresolved for weeks before saying anything.

Top 5 Conversation Struggles

Speaking up and establishing a culture of dialogue is essential to ensuring employees feel able to address and solve individual, cultural, and organizational challenges. Just consider the impact and importance of the conversations people are currently avoiding in a virtual workplace. According to respondents, the top five crucial conversations they are struggling to hold with their manager or colleagues include:

  • Poor performance
  • Behaviour concerns or violations
  • Perceived bias and inequities
  • Failure to meet deadlines, budgets, project specs, etc.
  • Concerns about team strategy

Painful Repercussions

Remaining silent on these issues led to pretty harmful outcomes for both the employee and the organisation, the most common being:

Opening Up Dialogue

“The health of any relationship, team, or organization can be measured by the lag between identifying and discussing problems.” – Joseph Grenny

The longer it takes you and your colleagues to speak up when they see an issue or concern, the more likely those once casual conversations will transform into crucial ones.

At the core of every successful conversation lies the free flow of information. Remote managers who can successfully foster a culture where varied opinions and open conversation are welcome will close the gap on the distance between someone seeing something and saying something.

That’s when you’ll find peace instead of stress, proficiency in place of time-wasting, optimism over low morale, and productivity rather than apathy.

6 Tips To Hold Crucial Conversations Virtually

Now is the time to move to action and prevent distance from destroying your team’s dialogue. While the fundamentals of communication may be the same whether you’re speaking face-to-face or virtually, different considerations should be taken for remote conversations. Here are six great tips to do just that:

Skill Up to Speak Up

These tips come from the bestselling book Crucial Conversations and award-winning learning experience Crucial Conversations for Mastering Dialogue. Crucial Conversations for Mastering Dialogue teaches people how to achieve alignment and agreement when stakes are high, opinions vary, and emotions run strong. With skills to speak their minds honestly and respectfully, people collaborate better, make better decisions, and foster workplace cultures of trust, safety, respect, and responsibility. The course is available in on-demand, virtual, and in-person formats.

To bring Crucial Conversations skills to your organisation for increased productivity and performance, contact us to learn more.  https://vitalsmarts.com.au/contact/

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