Effective Communication Requires Responsibility

Whose responsibility is it to communicate?  Does a manager’s responsibility for communicating an assignment absolve the employee of their responsibility for finding out what the assignment is?

A student approached me at the beginning of class to inform me that, “I didn’t read the case assigned for tonight.  I wasn’t here last week and they [pointing to other students] told me you changed the case, but I didn’t know it.”  When I asked when he found out about the change, he replied “Just now, so I didn’t know to read it.”  I asked him, “Did you contact anyone in the class to find out what happened in your absence and if there was anything you needed to know about?”  Surprisingly, he replied “No, I didn’t think I needed to do that”, and returned to his seat, apparently forgetting (or ignoring) that he is responsible for any assignments even if he misses class.

Communication is two-way, which means both parties have a responsibility.  Managers have a responsibility to be clear on what they want, when they want it, and, if appropriate, how it is to be done.  Employees also have a responsibility – to be clear on what the assignment is, when it is due, and how it is to be done.  If employees are not clear, they have a responsibility to find out rather than hide behind the excuses “I didn’t know” or “I wasn’t told”.

The student could have demonstrated his responsibility by having a closure conversation.

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