Your Office May Be Like a Bus Depot

I was on the elevator last week with a man who looked sheepishly down as we rode together to the 14th floor of the building where my office is located. If I weren’t a shy, introverted person, I would have said hello and introduced myself. “Hi, I don’t think we’ve met, I’m Margery. Are you new to the company or just visiting someone?” But I’m not the kind of person who typically does that. On top of shyness, I’m usually not in the mood to open the lines of communication, beyond a smile and a nod, to a stranger on an elevator.

I’m an introverted person with an inordinate ability to spend vast amounts of time alone with a cat—and be content—but even for people without my talents for alone time, saying hello and introducing yourself to a stranger can be a challenge. Often, even extraverts aren’t in the mood.

I recently saw an article from 2015 on “4 Trends in Workplace Communication,” and it made me wonder how we can use the many communication tools we have available in our offices to keep everyone in the loop about employee comings and goings, temporary employees, and visitors to the office.

The piece, published on CMS Wire, and written by Lori Alcala, notes use of multiple devices, demand for instant communication, the fall of face-to-face meetings (I wish!), and wider adoption of internal communication tools. Given all of that, could there be an easy alert system to keep people informed of who’s coming and going in—and out—of your office?

Would it be possible to have employees opt-in for alerts on their smartphone about such comings and goings? The brief news alerts would include the name of the person, a photo, what they’re there for (newly hired to a full-time, permanent position; a temporary, contract employee; or a guest for the day), along with a brief description of their responsibilities, and where they can be found. These alerts might make it more likely people would come over to say hello, and would aid security. Knowing who’s in the office at any given time, and who should, and shouldn’t, be there, is a basic security best practice, isn’t it?

The alerts sent to smartphones, or via e-mail for those that don’t want work-related messages popping up on their phones, also could aid departures and job openings. Most companies have intranets with job opening announcements, but many employees rarely visit the parts of the intranet where those announcements are placed. Seeing them flash across your phone, or pop up in your work e-mail, would ensure everyone is aware of new opportunities.

When new opportunities are announced, it’s also good to announce departures (that aren’t due to poor performance) as a celebration of jobs well done, and to say goodbye. Even in a small or mid-size company, employees can depart without anyone beyond their immediate work group knowing in advance. It would be great to have the chance to say goodbye and plan a celebration for the person. In fact, at the companies I have had experience with, even voluntary departures are treated as something to keep quiet about, and almost be ashamed of. Outgoing employees will no longer be a contributor to your company, but they’re taking their experience with your organization with them, and in the age of social media, that experience may be shared with many others. The way outgoing employees are treated also sends a signal to the employees you still have. Neglectful treatment of employee who provided good service to your company sends the message that you don’t care about your employees. When employees feel you don’t care about them, they may not be able to figure out why they should care about you.

You also could use text message alerts and e-mail to announce promotions. But proceed with caution. A promotion can cause resentment for those who have been passed over, especially when it includes unnecessary elements. I’m speaking from personal experience. I twice (once narrowly) missed out on joining a publication at my company, which I very much wanted to be a part of. The second time I missed out was due to a decision to turn the position I sought into an entry-level position, and promote an intern into the role. Last year, the editor of that publication sent an effusive e-mail to everyone in our division of the company announcing promotions, and praising the company for creating so many great opportunities for young writers. Seems harmless enough, but it was upsetting to me. What was I supposed to think? At 39, I was no longer a “young writer” deserving of an opportunity? I see how I’m being sensitive, but it shows you how seemingly harmless announcements of promotions—ones that are needlessly elaborate—can cause distress. When announcing promotions, keep it brief, announcing the name of the person who was promoted, the role he or she was promoted to, and his or her job responsibilities.

What do you do to avoid having an office that feels like a bus depot filled with people you’ve never seen before, or see every day, but don’t know anything about?

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