Poor Leader Communication: An Increasing Source of Stress for Everyone

Copyright 2013 Jeff Bacon“Anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm.” – Pubilius Syrus

Since 2009, the Operational Stress Control program has been looking at the causes of stress in our Fleet. Some of the usual ones pop up: time away from family; not enough trained people to do the job; long work hours pre- and post deployment. But one that seems to be on the rise is “poor leader communication.”

From discussions across the Fleet (and just like the CO in the cartoon), it seems like the majority of leaders at all levels—from commanding officers to deckplate leaders—want to communicate with their troops and think they’re doing so effectively. Yet their message may not come through as clearly to those on the receiving end. For some leaders, time can be a factor. With a constant high op-tempo, the right moment to communicate can be elusive. Rushed communications don’t always get the intended message across. Sailors feel the force of high op-tempo and unpredictability in their careers too, making it harder to figure out what part of all the information thrown their way to pay attention to. Although leaders may feel like Sailors aren’t listening, and Sailors feel like their leaders don’t hear them, both sides have something in common: the desire for communication during times of high stress.

From E1 to O10, there’s one thing we should all remember: communication is a two-way street. Putting out information with the expectation that people will automatically “get it” because you said it just isn’t realistic. Effective communication must be received and fed back to the sender in order for the full communication cycle to be complete. And how often in our fast-paced world does that happen?

Communication specialists tell us that a person needs to hear a piece of information a minimum of eight times in order to retain it. With information changing at such a rapid pace in our lives as well as within our Navy, that may just not be possible, so what is a leader to do? What is a Sailor to do?

We’ll explore these topics in the coming weeks, and offer some tips for not only communicating a message, but absorbing it as well. Until then, just like the cartoon shows, the first principle is that the word has to get out!

One response to “Poor Leader Communication: An Increasing Source of Stress for Everyone

  1. We experience poor communication everyday. What a stress!

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