What Coats Communicate To Your Team

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Communicating between work mates is an important part of work culture. Anyone who has worked with me knows I think about how coats start the day. Coats? Yeah, coats – they signal change. Whether your work team is small or large, how you communicate internally is important, and coats play a role.

Consider this: team members don’t usually arrive at exactly the same time, unless a workplace has a routine that requires that as part of entry to the space. As people wander in over the minutes, or hours for places with more flexible schedules, coats are on or off. You may need to speak to a colleague about something, but wait until their coat is off.

Wait for them to make the transition from commuting mind to working mind. Let them arrive.

“Positive work cultures can influence productivity and a healthy work environment,” writes Patricia Lotich in Are Your Communication Processes Impacting the Culture of Your Organization? She’s talking about culture in terms of how leadership communicates, and it also translates to the fine tuned communication we all use.

I can hear some people protesting the coat rule, saying it doesn’t address conflict between work styles, or people who are terminally late, and it doesn’t. If that is the issue, it’s something leadership may need to address. The coat rule is part of a bigger culture that considers how communication takes place at work. It doesn’t replace creating a workplace statement of values for communication which will contribute to the organizational culture, but it can be a piece of that how that statement of values is acted out every day.

Talking about something as simple as a coat rule could prompt your team to talk about their work styles; the best time for meetings vs. independent work; the best time to work on new ideas vs. digging into existing work. It gives leadership a new or refreshed idea of the strengths of the team, and where support and professional development are needed.

If it brings up conflict, that’s not the worst thing. “Leadership and conflict go hand-in-hand” says Mike Myatt in 5 Keys of Dealing with Workplace Conflict. He identifies “a lack of information, poor information, no information, or misinformation” as reasons for conflict. Communication can overcome all four.

The connection between employees is essential to good work and a productive team. It’s something to consider in everyday detail and how you frame your organization.


Image: Marc Falardeau, Flickr Creative Commons 

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