I learned today that a family friend was let go after 50 years at his company. Apparently they'd been sending him indirect signals for some time that intimated their displeasure, including not telling him that their corporate headquarters had moved. Nonetheless, the news was quite a shock to him and his family.
Leaving aside myriad issues involved in terminating a lifetime employee, this scenario screams out for a direct approach to interpersonal communications. Being diplomatic, indirect, coy, or even passive-aggressive simply carries too many risks as far as ensuring that the intent of communications is understood. How can individuals change their behaviors if substantive, clear, and timely feedback is not offered? They can't, in my opinion -- but then again, the individual or organization originating the communication probably didn't intend that end. And how can anyone succeed in interpreting messages that may at best be mixed? I've lost count of how many times I've been bewildered by unclear communications -- and responded unexpectedly, at least in the eyes of the sender.
Being direct -- offering candid, unvarnished feedback with the respect and dignity I believe we all deserve -- is the solution for this problem. Perhaps more importantly, being direct saves time, energy, and shows a concern for the individual and the relationship. I can't help but think that all organizations could benefit from this approach -- especially the one that summarily dismissed my family friend.