Is it possible that there is such a problem in the workplace as over-communication? You bet there is. Sometimes in the excitement of becoming part of a team, being asked to work on a project or just plain natural exuberance, there comes a time when normal communication levels quickly becomes over communication. The problem with over-communication, however, is that you tend to alienate and graet on the nerves of your boss and peers. To understand how to combat over-communication, it’s important to understand what it looks like.
Imagine that you’ve been asked to work on a long-term project. It’s a project that you feel passionate about and have been waiting the opportunity to show what you can do. Upon being notified that you’ve been asked to join the group, you immediately begin an email and telephone barrage. The initial emails contain a “sharing session” about how excited you are. These emails are quickly followed more emails about your ideas, plans and organizational thoughts. All of this communication occurs even before the group has had its first meeting. To top it off, if someone does make the mistake of replying, you quickly hit “respond all” to keep everyone in a loop that, by now, they prefer not to be a part of. This is a prime example of extreme over communication.
Another example of how to quickly become “that girl” (or guy) is to respond to emails when an email really isn’t necessary, or to ask for further communication when none is (or should be) obviously needed. For example, the Human Resources Manager sends out a memo that states the company policy is to now wear purple on every second Tuesday of the month. Upon sending this email, she automatically knows who will response back even though no response is necessary. The problem is further compounded by the fact that the person is a manager with a Master’s degree. Wait for it…wait for it…. A couple of minutes later, the “over-communicator” responds back. “Do we need to wear all purple or is it O.K. to wear black shoes.” “Is that every second Tuesday, or just certain ones.” The questions continue until the Human Resources Manager finally stops responding.
How do you not become the over-communicator? While the answer is truly simplistic in nature, it will take some practice for those who engage in this habit. First, did you get an invitation to join a group? Limit yourself to one email or phone call to accept the invitation and express your interest. If the project has been given a deadline and you don’t hear from anyone, then take the initiative to make sure you simply haven’t been left out of the communication chain. Second, as hard as it may be, resist the urge to always respond and ask unnecessary questions. Sometimes information is left general for a reason, to allow for allowable interpretation different managers.
Communication skills are absolutely necessary in the workplace environment, but remember there is also over –communication which may cause your peers and company execs to steer clear.