Reacting to Mixed Messages

  • Fact: All families, companies, and organizations send mixed messages from time to time. In fact, the majority of leaders we work with think they are communicating more clearly and consistently than they are. Most often the lack of clarity or inconsistency in messaging is unintentional, yet the impact on employees is palpable. Mixed messages create confusion, lower trust and in general provoke reactivity in the emotional system. Some employees “resign in place” as a result of the contradictions they see, while others might fight the system or engage in sabotage.
  • Action: If you are a leader, ask yourself where you might be sending mixed messages inadvertently and work to be as consistent and as clear as you can. If you are on the receiving end of mixed messages from your boss or other senior leaders, reflect on how you instinctively react to these perceived contradictions. Do you “resign in place?” or try to “fight the system?” or engage in some other form of reactivity? If so, resolve to respond in a more deliberate and thoughtful way – a way that enables you to still do your best work, while seeking the clarity you need.

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