Communication – a permanent misunderstanding

Dear reader,

George Bernard Shaw has been quoted as saying that England and America were two countries which are divided by the common language. During World War II, this led to sometimes dramatic misunderstandings between the armies of the two countries. Even when looking into our companies, one does not get the impression that via a common language a joint language has been created.

Communication or even communicative strength is constantly in demand. What is to be understood by it, finally remains often unclear like the question of favourite music or the best football player. In the best of all worlds, there is a common understanding that communication is the serious exchange not only of information but also of judgments, opinions, constructive critic and approaches of solution, i.e. communication is about mutuality. Preconditions for this understanding of communication are trust, time and appreciation. Reality, however, often is quite different.

Effective communication via appreciating attention of the receiver’s horizon can be an excellent means inter alia for employee motivation. It is shown to employees by this, that one values exchange of thoughts with them, that their opinions are appreciated and that they are taken seriously. In case this is missed, insufficient communication and, thus, insufficient leadership can lead to employee demotivation. “Refuelling by pressure” of employees with latest working instructions does not yet represent a means of communication.

However, also on the receiver’s side there is a gross misbehavior in many cases. A classic reaction in this field is that the desire for communication is only pretended while in fact solely information is wanted in order to advance the maximization of personal interests. Bluntly speaking: an employee behaving in this manner is literally the rotten apple in a basket which spoils all other fruits. This apple needs to be removed as quickly as possible. In the same way as a bad or totally missing communication through superiors demotivates employees and puts their loyalty towards the company at risk, the impression that some employees are provided selectively with information which is used by them for their individual advantage, is devastating for the team spirit.

Communication, thus, is more than a leadership tool. It is a mode of behavior which is shaped by corporate culture and which needs to be developed jointly by employer and employees. Pursuing serious efforts it should succeed not only to find a common language based on dictionary and grammar but a common language resting in a common attitude. In fact, a good reason why we deal in this issue particularly with questions of communication.      


Ulrich Goldschmidt