Q. I’m a manager, and I manage six people. Some are in the office and some are remote. When I call people on my staff, I want them to call me back. I don’t want them texting me a 10 word answer. If I text them or email, then they can respond that way, within a reasonable amount of time. But why wouldn’t they call me when I am looking for a more complete answer? This isn’t generational.
A. It sounds like you aren’t happy with how you and your staff are communicating. Content may not be the issue here, just the method, and perhaps the timeliness of responses.
First, look at whether you have communicated what you want directly and if you believe your team should understand how to respond to you. Many mangers assume they have communicated clearly, and yet staff members claim the expectations were never made clear. Regardless, it seems like it is time to have a call where your expectations are laid out. Make time to ask clarifying questions and offer suggestions.
Some of what may be happening could be generational. Developing relationships, speed of information exchange, and level of respect are all part of what goes into how people choose to communicate. You may feel that whatever method you use should be returned in kind, while people of other generations may not see a need for what they may see as unnecessary formality.
When a manager leaves an involved question on via voicemail and a direct report texts back, “Yes,” most senior managers I know would be aggravated. A millennial manager may be thrilled with the timely, concise response.
Build an agreement within your team. The way your team communicates with you is how they communicate with each other, other leaders within the larger organization and customers. What defines a timely response? Is it two hours for a message to be acknowledged? If you call, do you expect a call back? If you are busy, will a voicemail message suffice, or do you want an email confirming the same information? Is texting a regular occurrence, or meant for urgent issues only?
The variables are endless and different companies have different cultures; different managers have varied expectations. Gather all your expectations and theirs out in the open, and agree to a set of norms. Keep all the lines and methods of communication clear, and eliminate a source of organizational aggravation.
-Elaine Varelas, Managing Partner, Keystone Partners