How we communicate matters

I made a mistake yesterday. 

I raised an issue in an email that I should have brought up face to face first. I needed an email record that I’d addressed it, but I should have done that after a proper conversation. 

Email strips away facial expression, nuance and the ability to respond immediately to concerns. 

Having sent the email yesterday afternoon I was annoyed at myself to find three emails sent at later and later times in the evening from my colleague. He was feeling threatened, undermined and indignant. All understandable. All unnecessary. 

It was a sensitive issue. I should have predicted the reaction and adjusted my approach accordingly. 

Difficult topics should always be raised face to face first, and then followed up in writing later. 

If you get it wrong, as I did, acknowledge it quickly. Apologise. Don’t roll back from a position you need to take. But do accept you could have handled it better. 

It is inevitable that you’ll get it wrong sometimes. 

Being willing to own up when you do is vital if you want to maintain the respect of your colleagues and encourage an environment in which healthy necessary challenge is welcome. 

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