What Dialogue is Worth

Not naming names, but somebody in our town just lost her job because she didn’t know how to conduct a productive dialogue with the people who work for her. She stayed on her very high horse at the top of the hierarchy, and held dialogues only with those in the layers directly above and beneath her. The people who were two or three layers below her were out of luck.

A dialogue isn’t just two people (or groups, or layers) talking to each other. It includes listening – on both sides. If I am really listening to you as you give me your ideas and feedback on something that I’m interested in, then I’m probably going to take your thoughts into account. I might change the way I state my goal or objective, or add your suggestions into the “How-To” list, or the schedule, or the list of resource people to include. In other words, I’d probably treat your input as something valuable that would help me make the plan of action better and smarter.

This lady didn’t do that. Why? Because she’s the boss, that’s why. If she includes input from those (lower-down) other people in her plans and initiatives, it will look like she doesn’t know what she’s doing. Or so I’ve heard it explained. One high-level boss told me that if he asked for input from people too far down the ladder, they would think he wasn’t a very well-informed boss. “We use surveys when we need to know something from them. If I have to ask them, they would see me as weak and lose respect for me.”

Actually, it works the other way. Listening and honoring the input you get from people who will be affected by your plans – at all levels – is a good way to increase respect all around. Plus, it gets you a better plan, even if you only use a fraction of their input. Plus, they are much less likely to stage a revolution and throw you out of your job. Bye, bye, lady.

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