Communicating with Low-Information Employees

by Frank Roche on April 10, 2013

in Communication

Your employees don’t pay attention.

Your managers don’t pay attention.

Your executives don’t pay attention.

{Insert joke here: Your significant others don’t pay attention.}

See what I did there? I separated information into small chunks. Then I repeated myself.

It’s because people don’t pay attention.

In the mass communication business there’s an entire area of study around heuristics — the mental shortcuts people use to make decisions. Those can be decisions about politics…or how you manage your business. In essence, the Heuristic Model says that people have a limited capacity to intake information faced with an overwhelming number of choices. Ergo, mental shortcuts.

Those mental shortcuts have consequences. Your employees enter any communication event with preconceived notions. If they use a “The Man is out to get me” heuristic, then your introduction of a Lose Weight, Feel Great! plan is going to be met with significant skepticism. If they use a “managers aren’t to be trusted” heuristic, then good luck having a productive performance review discussion. If they use a “my company doesn’t care about pay fairness” heuristic, then you have a long slog to persuade them you’re doing the right thing.

If you’ve read this far you’re not a low-information person. Congratulations. Because you know a lot, people will count on you to help them make snap decisions. And that’s the answer about communicating with low-information employees: To overcome the shortcuts that low-information employees use in all aspects of their lives, use high-information employees to augment your messages. Get the smart people like you to help those who rely on scant details to make critical decisions.

TL:DR Most of your employees already have their minds made up.

Um….if you don’t know, TL:DR is Reddit shorthand for too long, didn’t read.

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