Communicate Directly and Respectfully

The rules of communication are simple. Be direct. Be honest. Be respectful. That means you speak directly with a person when you have an issue with his or her actions.

It reminds me of a situation facing one of my clients (let’s call him Adam). Adam decided to implement new processes to improve the efficiency of the department. He explained the new arrangements with his team during a staff meeting.

Some team members were thrilled with the changes, and others were quite upset by them. (Making difficult decisions doesn’t make anyone popular. Being a leader can be a very lonely role.)

One team member (let’s call him Terry) was particularly upset and responded by emailing the entire department with a list of his concerns about the changes. Terry also copied Adam’s boss in the email.


If you have a concern about someone’s action, talk to that person first. If it needs to be an email because of the situation, ask them in an email for a time to talk about it by phone or in person.

Never ever ever ever include someone’s boss in a conversation before you speak privately with the person with whom you have the conflict. Going over someone’s head to manipulate to get the decision you want is passive-aggressive and sneaky. It’s like tattling. It’s unprofessional. It’s manipulative. It destroys any trust in the relationship. And anyone who does that is not someone to be trusted. And who wants to work with that person?

How can you be more direct, respectful, or honest in your communication this week?

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