Barriers to Receiving Information

by Krishna on August 4, 2008

In addition to skills and circumstances, success depends significantly on the information you possess. Without having accurate, up-to-date information, you are more likely to make decisions based on assumptions, or plain hope. Not a good situation to be in. Corporations spend fortunes trying to build good management information systems so that managers can have timely information about their projects.

However, the best resources for providing information are the people whom you manage or work with. Management systems, however great, are just second-hand means of collecting and disseminating information. So, the ideal situation is where you also have people informing you about events (good or bad), providing you with suggestions and questioning your decisions based on their experience and knowledge.

Getting to that stage is not easy and there are several reasons why people may not want to share information with you. Here are some:

  1. Your reaction to the information: People generally have no qualms in relaying good news. But when it comes to bad news, they worry about how you would react. An angry response, even if not directed at the messenger, is very unpleasant. If you become visibly nervous, upset or afraid, then you have failed in providing strength and comfort to the messenger. What is needed is to remain calm in the face of bad tidings. But that may be difficult if you are the emotional type. Be more pro-active in collecting information so that you can predict negative trends. Be mentally prepared for bad news when someone wants to meet with you.
  2. What happens to the messenger: Your messenger is doing you a favor by providing you the information. In return, he or she expects something good to happen or something bad to go away. But often, what happens is that people create problems for the messenger. They berate the messenger for not bringing the news earlier. They burden the messenger with additional tasks. This guarantees that the person will think twice before providing you any information, because it is all risk, no reward.
  3. What you do with the information: Ignoring the information is a good way to alienate the messenger. Another way is to betray the trust of any confidential message by publicizing it or the messenger. Or, instead of trying to fix the problem, you use the information as a weapon against people. It is important to seek and understand how the messenger wants you to handle the information. Maybe you may disagree with the messenger, but you must try to adhere to all ethical obligations and address all concerns.
  4. Your judgment: People expect you to take rational steps when they give suggestions or bad news. If you insist on continuing with your agenda regardless of the situation or results, people will get disillusioned and co-operate less. When people provide ideas, they expect acknowledgement and consideration of those ideas. They need to feel that their information has made an impact on you. Now, you may think that the information is really not worthy of action. But it is still necessary to explain to people that you valued their input, why you disagree with them and what additional information may, in fact, make you change your present course of action.

Each of these attributes defines you within the organization. If you have gained a reputation for not listening to people or for revealing your sources indiscreetly, you have not only lost those who brought you information, but also those who could have helped you in the future.

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