I guess it must be the time of year, but recently reading about students in Ireland doing their Leaving Certificate examinations I was reminded of the warm summer (past summers always seem warmer) when I did my Leaving Certificate exams. One of the big hits of the summer was a song by OMD called “Talking Loud and Clear”. If you are of a certain age you may remember it; if not and for some reason you decide to google it, don’t waste your time looking for it in any year of this century.
Today I read an online article about the visit of Donald Trump’s Presidential visit to the West of Ireland, where the Trump family own a Hotel and golf course in a little village called Doonbeg. Suffice to say, their business provides the vast majority of employment in the local community, and the village is probably economically dependent on the Trump business.
The article described how President Trump’s two adult sons went for a night out in the village, visiting all four pubs and buying a round of drinks for all present in each pub. One son was quoted as saying what great neighbours the people of Doonbeg are, that his family have invested in the area but the people are wonderful and worth it. In response the locals lauded the Trump family, even to the extreme of the local priest saying he would save a place for the Trump family in Heaven. This brought back horrific memories of old Hollywood films depicting Oirland as a backward but charming land populated by “Darby O’ Gill and the Little People”, who are always willing to doff the cap to the rich American.
Once the intense nausea, caused by reading this article, had passed, I began to reflect on how we communicate at work. Do we really talk loud and clear? In a large bureaucratic hierarchy we hardly do. I have sat in meetings where there were about 20 people present but only two or three actually spoke. Why? To what purpose? Surely it is a waste of staff time, and the employer’s money, for the other people to be present. Better surely for those with the power to speak to have their conversation, the others to get on with some work, and the meeting outcomes to be disseminated later.
Organisational culture sets the norms as to what is acceptable and what is not. These norms are communicated to a new recruit from the moment they join an organisation. Whilst the Induction process officially communicates scheduled elements, from Health and Safety procedures to dress code, these Inductions are also the first point at which Organisational norms are communicated.
Communicating in accordance with Organisational culture and climate people seldom talk loud and clear. What is said is often nuanced in accordance with a wide range of factors such as: who is present; what the speaker’s role and status are relative to the others present; the impression the speaker is trying to convey etc.…
So, is our everyday communication really that different from that between the Trump family and the residents of Doonbeg? Well, it certainly is not loud and clear, and whilst it does not reach the extreme of the ‘neighbours’ in Doonbeg, much of what we say at work may be more anchored in patronage and servility than any of us would care to admit.