Company A has offshore offices and several teams based in different countries. Among its stuff are System Administrator (SA) in Denmark and Client Support Manager (CSM) in Belgium. Both employees are based in different countries, hence didn’t know each other personally and communicated regarding all work related issues via e-mail, phone and instant messengers. Instant messaging (Skype) was officially used in the Company as a primary communication tool for its employees.
Once upon coming to the workplace in the morning, Client Support Manager discovered that Company’s software application, sold to customers and installed on the clients’ side, is not working properly because of the Database failure. He messaged to System Administrator by Skype, requesting him to check servers and to fix the issue before clients would have discovered the problem. As CSM didn’t get any response from SA during half an hour after the message had been sent, he tried to reach him on his cell phone – no response was received either. Meanwhile, clients have discovered the problem and started to send complaints to CSM. After having contacted colleagues of SA in Denmark, CSM was informed that SA was still not at the office and he wasn’t working remotely from home either. After a while he finally responded to the messages with a note that he would soon have the issue fixed and that it is not worth paying so much attention.
Thus, the main problem here is unavailability of SA during working hours and violating him his direct responsibilities, as well as the working schedule. It caused technical problem, led to client complaints and made CSM making excuses to clients for the problem that was out of his competency. The sides of the communication problem are Client Support Manager and System Administrator. CSM’s played an active role in this incident since he is the one who had to deal with the conflict and to find ways for its resolution. SA played a passive role and simply ignored messages, addressed to him.
There was only one System Administrator in the Company’s staff; consequently CSM couldn’t get help from any other colleague. So, without having any feedback from SA and in the absence of information about his possible availability, CSM had to escalate the issue to the SA’s direct manager – Chief Technical Officer (CTO) of the Company, who was based in UK.
In this case Client Support Manager acted as a sender or communicator. He initiated a message and sent it to the System Administrator, who was a receiver or interpreter in this case. A message was polite, clear and concise, written in business English as the primary communication language between foreign employees of the Company. Message contained a description of the problem, request for fixing it and mentioned the urgency and importance of the problem. Besides, CSM asked SA to inform him about the time that fixing a problem would have taken and a source of the problem, in order to communicate this information to clients.
Initially, there was no “noise” that could influence an accurate expression or reception of the message, since the message was delivered directly from sender to receiver. However, after involving the third party into an incident (CTO of the Company), some “noise” could appear in the interpretation of the issue.
The “channel”, used for delivering the message is an instant messenger and online communication tool, Skype. Both sides of communication were online at the time of sending the message, consequently any technical information delays or loses are excluded.
The problem in the given context was not in the incorrect decoding or misinterpretation of the message, but in the absence of a timely feedback from a receiver. Problems in communication between sender and receiver were complicated by the absence of direct face-to-face communication between them, their distant location from each other and by different attitude to their responsibilities. In addition, it was quite difficult for both employees to understand each other’s reaction to a problem and a message in the given context, without seeing each other’s nonverbal reactions.
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