Why does my boss stink at communicating?

(This piece from ‘Phil’s All-Time Hits, Vol. 1’ just ran in the Council of Smaller Enterprises ‘Mind Your Business’ e-Letter.)   

A reader recently asked me, “Why doe my boss stink at communicating?” The short answer to this recurring question is that communication skills weren’t on the ‘Boss Test’.

Let’s optimistically assume most bosses know what they want to say and generally accept the importance of effective workplace communication. So, why are so many of them weak communicators? Consider theses three reasons:

1. It wasn’t on the “Boss Test.” How many organizations place written or verbal communication or presentation competencies high on the “gotta have” list when interviewing candidates for managerial positions or promotions? Very few, I fear. Executives often get hired or promoted in spite of their communication competencies, rather than because of them. Unless, of course, the job is in corporate communications, marketing, or some sales roles.

2. It’s no big deal. Many executives don’t have a highly developed communication skill set because they don’t think they need one. They must be able to make effective budgeting, strategic planning and hiring decisions—of course. But communication competency is rarely an important quantifiable factor in their performance objectives or evaluations or requirements for advancement or success. 

3. They didn’t learn these skills in school. Most business schools have minimal coursework requirements in interpersonal communication, business writing or presentation skills—even less at the graduate level. And lots of luck if those courses were taught by “academicians” with little relevant real world business experience.

So, if your sad fate is to report to a very weak communicator boss, smile through the pain and promise yourself that when you get to be the boss, you’ll work hard to be a much better communicator.

Better yet, whenever you’re in a position to do so, help push good communications skills to the top of the priority list for new hires, advancements, and overall indicators of success in the business world. 

But wait, there’s more … check back next month as we discuss the other side of this issue—‘Why do my employees stink at communicating?’ Then, the final piece of this series will provide lots of simple best practices for enhancing communication competencies in your workplace.