Take Responsibility for Your Own Communication and Take Back Your Power

If you want to stop feeling powerless at work, here’s a good way to start: take responsibility for your own communication.

What does that have to do with power? A lot, because many people handle their half of communication exchanges in a way that erodes their power. Here are some examples of how you can reclaim your power through more responsible communication.

E-mail

Who’s in charge here: you or the technology? Are you jumping to attention every time your computer beeps to tell you you have mail? That eats into your time in little chunks every day. Then you don’t have enough time to do your job properly, and you feel stressed and victimized.

The answer? Set a series of times throughout the day, according to your workload and schedule, to read and respond to e-mail. Turn off the audio reminder so that you won’t be tempted to abandon your schedule. If anyone needs to get in touch with you more urgently, they’ll call you.

Are you on other people’s automated distribution lists? I’m not talking about spam from around the Internet, but just people in your organization who seem to want to copy everyone they know about their every waking thought. Get off those lists! Approach the people and ask them to remove your name, and to copy you only on appropriate messages.

Take responsibility for managing your e-mail.

Voicemail

Do people expect you to respond immediately to voicemail messages, instead of getting on with the work you need to do? Maybe your greeting is at fault.

If you have planned to work on a major project for two hours, reflect that in your voicemail greeting. “I will be unavailable from 10 a.m. until noon today. Please leave a message and I will return your call as soon after that as possible.” If your phone rings during that time, don’t pick it up. They’ll hear the message, and if they leave their name and number they will know when to expect to hear back from you. Of course you must also respect their time by calling back when you said you would.

You don’t have to give people a play-by-play description of your schedule for the day, but do let them know when you will get back to them.

Take responsibility for managing your telephone response schedule.

Difficult co-workers

Unfortunately, verbal bullying is all too common in today’s workplace. Some people are accustomed to getting their own way simply by interrupting and talking louder than anyone else at meetings, in other people’s offices or even in casual hallway conversations. Don’t let them away with it. Store in your mind a few verbal responses to use as needed. Here are a few to start you off:

• Perhaps you don’t realize you are shouting, but you are. I’m willing to talk about this, but only in a civilized manner.

• Please don’t interrupt me when I am making a point. When I finish what I was saying, I’d be happy to hear your point of view.

• Did you mean that comment to be insulting?

You can add your own, and use words that come naturally to you. Many bullies will back off when they realize their tactics are not having the desired effect.

Take responsibility for managing conversations with others.

Communication is always a two-way street. You can’t control the other person’s part, but you can certainly take responsibility for your own. Try it, and just see how empowered you feel.