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Business Values Mirror Society's Values: Internal Communication in the Age of Social Transparency

  • Business Values Mirror Society's Values: Internal Communication in the Age of Social Transparency

Two generations ago, interpersonal communication was not a big priority. Married couples knew what they had to do, and got to it. The husband went to work, the wife stayed at home, and the business of family-making was executed with few words spoken.

Internal Communication in a Marriage

Today's personal relationships demand a far higher rate of interpersonal communication than they did a generation ago. For more reasons than I could list here, people grew to need more information. It enhanced their lives and their ability to contribute more meaningfully to their relationships.

Today, we want to know how our partner feels, we want to express our own feelings, and we want to know more about our partner's needs, as well as wishing to express our own needs. Everything from personal hygiene to management of in-laws is now out in the open. We are no longer willing to live in a take-it-or-leave-it world; everything is up for discussion and/or negotiation, and life is better for everyone as a result of our new world order of communication.

Work life mimics private life

For most people, work life is the second biggest personal commitment they make in their life ---the first being commitment to a spouse or significant other, if they have one. I say work life is the second biggest only to marriage (I use the term 'marriage' here to cover any 'significant other' relationship) because it is relatively easy to unwind one's self from a job. True, you can always "find another job", but it is almost always a major event in one's life; one we remember for the rest of our lives. And with it, comes stress, risk, uncertainty, and loss of established personal connections. Perhaps the new job won't work out as we thought it would, or we might learn something about the new employer's viability only when we've worked there for a month.

From a financial or resource point of view, it could be argued that one's job takes priority over one's private life, because you need an income to fuel your private life.

OK, so we've established that the significance of a person's work life is of parallel importance to that of one's spousal commitment. And the relationship to one's work and to one's colleagues is pivotal to the success of that commitment, right?

Few of us work in a conveyor belt type of job today; automation and overseas outsourcing has taken care of most of that. Instead, we work with people and processes. To be effective in the typical job of today, we have to know why we do work the way we do it, where we personally fit in the organization, and we must have the means to communicate in two directions with the organization's leadership. Our work life now mimics our private life. It has just taken a bit of time for the former to catch up with the latter.

Setting expectations

Disappointment in many marriages stems from a mismatch of expectations. One spouse thought the other was going to provide such-and-such, but it didn't happen. If each knew what the other had expected, a failing relationship could have been rescued years before everyone felt so let down!

The primary role of communication in a relationship is to set expectations.  In our work lives, employee communication provides the same function: to set expectations. It's not just about what the company expects from an employee — which of course the employee must understand — but it is also about what the employee needs to satisfy those expectations. The employer needs a way to obtain input from the employee. And that, for most companies, comes in the form of an internal communications solution.

Communication = Success

Couples who have mastered the fine art of interpersonal communication, it is widely understood, have higher rates of relationship success. It's the same with companies. Those companies with robust internal communication have more engaged employees, higher employee retention, and higher productivity.

Communication is to a relationship (business and personal) what blood is to the body. Without a continual flow of ideas and feedback, you definitely have a marriage and a job, however lifeless and meaningless both may be.


Tom McQueen is PDP's automotive industry expert and has consulted with over 400 dealerships on performance improvement and employee engagement.

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