10 Silent Messages and Their Negative Impact

body languageWhether or not we are consciously aware, all of us are communicating information, ideas, directives, advice, values, and opinions from morning to night.  It’s part of being human.  But we need to pay closer attention to what we’re passing on.  Our silent messages affect folks.  Sometimes they cut deep.  Depending on the amount of damage done, job performance suffers.  Review the ten messages below and identify the one(s) that YOU may be sending.

  1. I’m watching you. This type of implied behavioral or performance micromanagement (whether you are the boss or not) deflates others’ self-confidence. It makes people nervous and insecure. What exactly are you watching for?  Mistakes?  Extended lunches?  Too many breaks?
  1. I don’t like you. You don’t have to like everybody on your team. What do you want to accomplish by conveying this silent message? How does it get the work done better and faster?  Respect is a requirement; like is a preference.
  1. You’d better not fail. This message fosters fear. It also kills or reduces creativity. Where there is no failure there is no individual and organizational growth.  As a boss, part of your job is to stretch folks.
  1. I’m a workaholic. When you send this message to colleagues and subordinates, you’re really telling them that they must follow your example. That in order to be valued and respected they have no choice but to burn the candle at both ends like you do…
  1. I don’t have your back. When staff sense that you as the boss will walk away, say nothing, or hide out when they need you most, their morale and loyalty diminishes or evaporates.
  1. I don’t trust you. This particular silent message is deadly. If you are a decision maker and you have hard evidence that supports your mistrust of someone, then fire them. If you have personal issues with trust, you may benefit from hiring a therapist.
  1. Don’t even think about taking off. You may not be saying this aloud, but your implication is taken as a threat. If there is a valid reason why people can’t take paid leave time on a certain day, tell them directly and provide the reason in a way that makes sense to them.
  1. You aren’t good enough. This message pokes holes in folks’ self-esteem. The reality is that everybody is good enough for something. Find out what each of your staffers is good enough for and give them plenty of opportunities to do it.
  1. I disagree with your approach but I’m not going to say so. You are playing a mind game if you send this message. Further, it is passive aggressive by nature. What is to be gained by refusing to tell a person you don’t agree with her approach to a project or customer complaint?  What is the benefit to keeping your ideas to yourself?
  1. I can live with your sub-par job performance. This silent message allows people to continue swimming in the sea of mediocrity. If you are the boss, you aren’t doing anybody any favors by turning a blind eye to a problem situation. You’re also not doing your job, and this impacts company bottom line.

Where did you see yourself in the above list of messages?  I realize it may be difficult to face.  Looking in a mirror is rarely fun.  However, there’s a lot at stake:  Team morale, productivity, staff retention.  Not to mention YOUR professional reputation!

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