When a colleague recently emailed me to ask about a list I was putting together for her, I explained that I hadn’t had a chance to get it done yet, but I would find some time to do it in the next couple of days.
As I hit the “send” button, I realized that my wording—which, I think, is very common wording that most people tend to use—implied that either I’m an incredibly busy and important person, or else that I lack time management skills.
What I should have said, to be completely honest with her, was “it hasn’t been at the top of my priority list.”
We often use terms and phrases that describe how busy we are or how we are incapable of doing X, Y, and Z, but I think that this is incorrect rhetoric.
We should instead be identifying why things haven’t been done, or why we will not be able to complete them for a certain deadline, and relay that information on to the next person so that they too can understand. What we need to do is focus more on communicating effectively in the workplace!
Some phrases which we can use to more effectively communicate at the office include:
It’s not at the top of priorities right now.
If I add that to my workload, my quality of work will suffer.
I need to learn these skills before I can accomplish that task.
Too often, we shortchange ourselves by not identifying and addressing the underlying issue. If we aren’t getting our work done on time for a deadline, or if it isn’t as good quality as we would like, or if we’re struggling with something, it’s extremely important to get to the bottom of it and to communicate that effectively. Communicating effectively in the workplace often comes down to simply having a good understanding of our own situation and what we can do to improve it (or what others can do to support us).
When we communicate the issue to a colleague, they will be more understanding, which will ensure that your relationship stays healthy. They can provide recommendations for overcoming the obstacles you’re facing. You can work together to solve the problem. You will be showing them a great deal of respect and also reducing your stress levels by being honest with yourself and with them.
If you’re having trouble with getting work done and you aren’t sure what exactly the problem is, these are some great questions to ask yourself:
- Do you need to brainstorm ideas with someone else?
- Do you need to do some professional development in order to acquire the necessary knowledge and skills?
- Do you need more time to complete something to your satisfaction?
- Do you strongly dislike the task and are procrastinating because you don’t want to do it? What could be changed about the task that would make it more enjoyable (or less uncomfortable, which is often the case)?
- Do you need more direction or clarity on the task at hand?