Communication Mistake #1: A Company Wide Communication Mistake
On the day that I started a new job (this was when email was just beginning to become popular–and yes, I am THAT old), I confidently walked in, sat down, and read the first email in my inbox, which had been sent to the entire company. Then, in one awful moment, I accidentally hit “reply all” instead of “reply.’” Instantly the whole office, my new workplace, was asking “Who is this Lisa Marshall person? Doesn’t this idiot know how to use email?” Needless to say, that was not my best first impression as the new program manager of technology! I simply shrugged, said, oops, and moved on. I couldn’t undo it and apologizing to the entire company would have made it worse.
Communication Mistake #2: “Crap, I Forgot the Attachment” Error
When I shared this story with one of our new interns, she told me that she used to have a bad habit of sending emails too quickly and often forgetting details such as attachments. Usually she would remember and quickly send another email with the subject line “Oops, here is the attachment.”
She didn’t think anything about it, until one day, she did it once again to her boss. He was furious with her. He sent her back an email written all in capital letters telling her to include all attachments with the relevant email and to stop crowding his inbox.
To me this was a perfect example how little unspoken communication mistakes add-up to a bigger problem. She told me that she not only apologized, but also came up with a strategy to prevent the problem from happening again.
Communication Mistake #3: A Math Mistake That Caused Me Embarrassment
On another occasion I was delivering a status presentation to the CEO of the company where I was working. The second slide contained a simple arithmetic mistake. The CEO loudly pointed that out and then berated me. He told me to sit down. He wouldn’t let me finish the presentation. I was SO embarrassed.
Communication mistakes like these teach us that different people have differing levels of tolerance for mistakes. Some people may overlook (or may not even notice) seemingly minor errors whereas others may form a significantly negative impression of overall competence (of the person and the organizations which they might be associated with) based on sloppy communication errors. (In fact, one study looked at the effects of spelling errors on the perception of the writer. The results suggested that spelling errors can affect how people perceive writers, especially when there are many spelling errors.