South-Western - Management  
Micromessages at Work Can Hurt Employee Morale, Productivity
Topic Communication
Key Words Communication, nonverbal, micromessages
InfoTrac Reference CJ118943187
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News Story

The biggest threat to workplace equality may not be discussed in diversity workshops, and in fact the perpetrator may not even be aware he is doing it. It is the silent messages we send with every message. For instance, a manager may tell an employee that he isn't happy with the employee's work simply by the facial expressions he makes or the way he holds his body. The employee may feel discouraged, and productivity may suffer. What makes these messages difficult to control is the fact that neither the sender or the receiver may be aware they are happening, even as they create barriers between people, instill resentment, and generally create a toxic work environment. Leadership and diversity consultant Stephen Young suggests a four-step approach to dealing with this communication problem that uses the acronym TALK:

  1. Talk to yourself and decide if the problem is really a misunderstanding.
  2. Approach the person about the perceived inequality.
  3. Listen to the person and let him explain the perceived problem.
  4. Keep communication open.
Diversity issues affect corporate culture and the bottom line. It is more important than ever to make sure your employees feel they are being treated fairly.


How do micromessages damage employee morale and productivity? Why do you think people aren't aware of sending or receiving them most of the time? Do you think companies should conduct training in this area?


Spend a day being more aware of the micromessages people send each other by observing the people around you and writing down 5 specific instance in which the verbal message is altered by factors like tone, volume, and body language. After each instance, discuss with the parties how they each interpreted the exchange. Were there differences in perception?

Source "Micromessages at Work Can Hurt Employee Morale, Productivity," Akron Beacon Journal, July 5, 2004.
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