The following information was adapted by UNM Ombuds Services from a June 21 New York Times article by Julie Weed and from MIT’s Ombuds Office.
Communication can be challenging when there is distance between us physically, and our interaction is reduced to small Zoom video squares and veiled emails.
Below are some communication best practices that have emerged since March that are useful in these ever-changing times.
- Speak up quickly if something isn’t working. Raise a flag if something isn’t working well. It’s harder now for managers to see that you are spinning your wheels and aren’t making progress, so let them know. The same holds true if there are other concerns. Do not assume that your supervisor knows your personal circumstances or individual concerns without you sharing them. Your supervisor may be surprised by your concerns; especially during this time, people may prioritize needs and assess risk differently.
- Take the initiative. Don’t expect your higher-ups to have it all figured out. Almost every aspect of work is being reconsidered, so jump in with suggestions, big or small.
- Keep Experimenting. Now that the situation has changed from a “sprint to a marathon,” keep checking in with employees to hear what’s working and what isn’t, and to keep making adjustments. Along with feedback on new processes and technologies put in place for remote work, managers need to ask employees about their individual constraints like child-care hours and design around each person’s constraints.
- Meet differently. In phone calls and video conferences, take extra time to encourage questions and engage those who haven’t chimed in. Afterward, reiterate shared information, confirm understanding and distribute decisions, actions and key discussion points in writing. Frequent short meetings like a daily “Stand Up,” where team members each say what they are working on that day, resources they need or challenges they face, can keep them from moving in the wrong direction.
- Over communicate. Provide additional context. Explain the “whys” of decisions and their possible effects. Be available for questions.
- Make consistency a priority. Updates should come at predictable times and days. Managers should also regularly check communication channels like email and text to make sure they are not creating a roadblock.
- Find ways to highlight your teams’ great work with higher-ups. Upper management may be physically out of sight, but it’s important for the team to still feel recognized.
What is Ombuds Services?
Ombuds Services is a confidential, informal resource for you to talk about anything that concerns you at UNM.
We help staff, faculty, supervising staff and their co-workers develop strategies and options for improving communication and constructive resolution to concerns.
We support your efforts to become a better problem solver and more effective communicator.
Learn more about our services at ombudsforstaff.unm.edu.