The Messenger Matters

A Modern Day Response

You have undoubtedly heard the expression, “Don’t shoot the messenger.” This is a play on words of the practice in the middle ages of a king or queen having a messenger killed if they did not like the message. Thankfully we no longer kill the messenger, but we have our own version of it.

A Personal Experience

I remember a time quite a while ago when I could not get the needed information from a couple of other employees in the company. As a result the monthly closing was being delayed. After repeated attempts, I finally went the president of the company for some help in getting the needed information. Instead of asking me what had happened so far, he chose to explode and give me a cursing out. Then he did the same to the other two employees. You might say he verbally shot the messenger (me) and then turned around and did the same to the others involved. Talking with one them later I realized we were all shocked at the way things played out.

The Problem

When any of us do this to others, we begin to create a breakdown in communications. You can bet I was more hesitant to discuss an issue with the company president from that point on. I did not completely shy away, but I did take great care in my approach. There are some people who would just completely shut down to providing any future information voluntary for fear of a repeat. That is unfortunate as it puts everyone at a disadvantage. The employee who was chastised is no longer as engaged as before, and the individual who did the chastising has cut off a source of information. By effectively shutting down that channel of information they are left at a disadvantage going forward.

A Solution

You may have heard that when you go to someone to report a problem that you should have in mind a possible solution or perhaps more than one. This is a very good idea, but in reality there are times when an employee is simply stumped and needs some serious feedback. So, the other half of the solution is for anyone who supervises others to train themselves to pause whenever they are informed of a problem and consider whether they have the solution and can at least provide input to help the employee resolve the issue.

When employees and managers put these habits into place, the channels of communication are more likely to remain open. That is simply better for the company and everyone in it. So the next time you are tempted to attack the messenger, remember the potential consequences, take moment to collect your thoughts, and don’t shoot the messenger. The messenger really does matter.

If you want to know more, contact AimCFO – Contact

As always, your comments are welcomed.


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