Over Communication: The Sad Reality of What It Usually Says About Us

Photo illustration by Dreamstime.

I’ve been told that I over communicate from time to time.

I like to think it’s a good thing – that I’m transparent, that I’m keeping everyone in the loop – but in fact, over communicating is as bad as under communicating.

Over communicating usually starts because someone told you that you don’t communicate enough, so you go right-ditch, left-ditch in your attempt to correct – you overcorrect. Great communicators say what needs to be said, when it needs to be said and to whom it needs to be said – nothing more, nothing less.

6 things over communicating says about you

So, what does over communicating say about you?

  • That you can’t put together a clear and concise thought.
  • That you don’t have buy-in from the group/person you are trying to communicate with, so you keep communicating and hoping that will make them buy-in. (This is the “I’m-going-to-keep-talking-until-you-cave-into-my-way-of-thinking” type person, and you know, it works too often!)
  • That you don’t value other people’s time.
  • That you don’t know your audience.
  • That what you have to say is more important than what others have to say or believe.
  • That you like to hear yourself talk, or read the words that you write.

Over communicating comes in many forms, but the one that drives me absolutely crazy is what I call the “One Size Fits All Communication.”  This is when a person has a specific problem or issue with something, but instead of directly communicating with the individual that can solve the problem, they communicate with a blanket approach. See if this sounds familiar:

Mary isn’t coming into work on time. It’s not terrible, she is only five or 10 minutes late, or she’s there on time, but it’s running in the door right at 8 am, and then isn’t settled down and working until 8:15 am. Everyone else in Mary’s department is there before their start time and working when they should. Pam the supervisor sends out a memo to the entire staff reminding them when the staff starting time is, and what is expected. She goes on to tell the staff what discipline will ensue if this rule isn’t followed (up to and including termination! (Us HR folks love the phrase “up to and including termination” – I should sell t-shirts that say that!).

Does over communicating mask conflict avoidance?

Very familiar, right?! You’ve probably seen one of these memos in the last 90 days!

Article Continues Below

What does this say about this leader?

Clearly, they are conflict avoidant and lack the ability to deal with problems head on. The problem with this approach is that the leader loses credibility with the rest of her staff. They all get it – they all know Mary is a slacker and taking advantage – but then Pam goes off and slaps each of their hands for something Mary is doing. Many times, over communicators are individuals that fear direct conflict, and their over communication is a veil drawn over their fear to deal with problems head-on.

What can you do? Be straightforward. Check for understanding and clarity. Move on.

This was originally published on Tim Sackett’s blog, The Tim Sackett Project.

Tim Sackett, MS, SPHR is executive vice president of HRU Technical Resources, a contingent staffing firm in Lansing, MI. Tim has 20 years of HR and talent background split evenly between corporate HR gigs among the Fortune 500 and the HR vendor community ? so he gets it from both sides of the desk. A frequent contributor to the talent blog Fistful of Talent, Tim also speaks at many HR conferences and events. Contact him here.

Topics