In the Harvard Business School article: It's Not Nagging: Why Persistent, Redundant Communication Works, author Kim Girard found that persistent, redundant communication was an effective tool in helping to accomplish workplace tasks and projects. This is great news for managers who might feel bad about prodding their teams with the same messages over and over.
Parents know that the first time asking a five-year-old to clean their room never works. Neither does the second. It’s the third time, possibly accompanied with an assertive exclamation of “NOW, please!” that gets progress in motion. Research shows that employers and employees work nearly the same way. The manager who says something once is ignored. The manager who repeats themselves several times throughout the day finishes their projects. And they finish them much faster than those who don’t.
Girard’s study followed the communications of thirteen project managers in six companies across the tech, communications, and healthcare industries. Researchers found that power is the big factor in how managers communicate with their teams.
21% of project managers with no direct power over team members used repetitive communication, compared to only 12% of managers with direct authority. 54% of managers without direct power used multiple forms of communication to prod their teams (e.g. an instant message plus a phone call or email) compared to just 21% of managers with power.
Researchers found that while managers with power did remind their teams of deadlines, the sense of urgency and attempts at persuasion just weren’t there. Managers lacking direct power, however, assumed nothing and prepared for the worst. They proactively used repetitive communication to convince team members that their project was in trouble and that they needed to resolve issues fast. In short, those without power were much more strategic in reinforcing the urgency of their communications. While both sets of managers finished their projects on time, the managers without power, who reminded their employees over and over of what needed to be done, finished things faster.
There are three takeaways from this study that all managers should consider doing:
Intentionally repeat key communications across multiple media.
Use repetitive communication to reinforce the ideas important to a company’s culture.
Never feel guilty about it. You’re getting work done.
Never feel guilty about it. You’re getting work done. See what we did there?