Communication is one of those things that can’t be overstated or overrated. Ineffective communication can topple organizations and the people in them. Effective communication can be foundational to organizational growth and contribute to high-performing employees.

Proof point:  After a week of vacation, an employee returns to work to find an email invitation from the company’s president. There was no notes or context provided with the invitation other than the meeting subject – Incentive-based Compensation.

The employee was left to make assumptions about the meeting, which was scheduled for the last day of the work week and the other meeting attendees included the president, senior manager of the employee, the heads of human resources and legal, and an outside lawyer. The employee assumed with such heavy-weight attendees, this was probably not going to be a positive meeting and in fact, might be a “pink slip” meeting. The company had a history of terminating employees without notice – here today and gone tomorrow with no explanation.

The employee inquired about the purpose of the meeting with her manager. The manager did not know why the president was calling the meeting and could shed no light on the meeting. The manager said he would check it out and let the employee know the objective of the meeting. Eager to hear, the employee waited for an explanation (all the while worrying if this was the end). The next day, the senior manager relayed the good news – the meeting was for a continuous improvement initiative that the president wanted the employee to consider implementing. The president forgot to include the meeting description notes in the body of the email. Wow! What a difference context made!

Without further elaboration, we can see the impact to morale and employee engagement when communication is not effective. By focusing our attention on communicating with intent, we can reduce mistaken assumptions that can reduce productivity and excitement for the work. The lesson learned is to pay attention to not only what we say/write but also closely examine what is not said and how our words may be received without adequate context.  Imagine the reaction the employee would have had returning from vacation to learn that he or she had been selected by the president of the organization to implement a high priority initiative! Keep your employees engaged and informed; share information timely and with context.