“We don’t have the budget right now.”
“We decided to go with someone else.”
“I don’t have an answer for you.”
How many times have I heard similar phrases from my business connections? Not enough. Like most business owners, I would rather hear “no” than hear nothing at all—especially from a professional relationship.
I don’t know if the pandemic is to blame, but workplace ghosting has never been worse. I’ve written about it before, and part of me wonders if I’m just old and cranky. I’m sure that is what my 13-year old thinks when I say, “No piano practice, no allowance!”
But then I realize that it is happening to everyone—and that no one likes it. So why is it so prevalent?
Convenience Over Courtesy
One explanation is that people who are busy or stressed are more apt to choose convenience over courtesy. It makes sense. For the past two years of the pandemic, people have been busier (and more stressed) than ever. Not responding or staying quiet is easier than engaging in a dialogue, especially if the subject matter is complicated or sensitive.
Another reason: Digital communications do not carry the same accountability as face-to-face conversations. My writing an eloquent email pitch is not the equivalent of sitting down with someone and sharing my ideas for how I can help their company grow.
That’s why I am cautiously optimistic about the long-delayed return to office that is happening across the country. Simply being in the presence of others will hopefully revive communication skills that have become dormant and rusty.
I’m keeping my expectations in check, however. In many return-to-office cases, people are coming back to dramatically changed workplaces—not just in the physical sense, but also because the people will be different. Some coworkers will have quit. New teammates will have been hired. Interpersonal skills are going to be put to the test.
Smoothing the Transition
So, what are some things that you can do to facilitate courteous communication and build stronger professional relationships? For starters, put an end to workplace ghosting.
- If you drop the ball, acknowledge your error. Voice mails pile up, emails get lost in spam filters, and busy calendars take over. Things happen, but the way you deal with them is what determines the strength of your relationships.
- Put yourself in other people’s shoes. If delivering unwelcome news makes you uncomfortable, consider this: Most people would rather hear “I don’t have an answer for you right now” or “I am sorry that it won’t work out” than hear nothing at all.
- Do not rely on technology to relay complicated or sensitive information. Tools that make it fast and easy to communicate turn genuine dialogue into short and impersonal word bursts. If you can’t meet in-person, then schedule a video call. (Seventy to ninety percent of all messaging is nonverbal).
- If you feel that someone has disrespected you, take a step back. Ask yourself if there is a better way to communicate and connect with the person you are trying to reach. Are you sending long emails to someone who only reads short text bursts? Meet people where they are.
The return to office is exciting for many reasons, not the least of which is the opportunity for organizations to sharpen the communication and business relationship building skills of their team members. If you are looking for learning and development resources for your company or team, visit The Galvanizing Group’s online course catalog. It contains over 50 interactive microlearning courses (also available in Spanish) designed to build essential business skills and transform the way people build and maintain relationships.
Patrick Galvin is a professional speaker, TEDx presenter, and author of The Way series of popular business parables. He is also the chief galvanizer of The Galvanizing Group, a learning and development company offering coaching, training, and online courses to high-performance companies and teams who seek a systematic and measurable approach to trust-based business relationship building