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Home : News : Commentaries : Display
NEWS | Aug. 1, 2018

The domino effect of communication

By Toby Housey, Director 628th Air Base Wing Equal Opportunity office

Recently, I took my vehicle into the dealership to get my oil changed. This was the same dealership I purchased my vehicle from and have utilized for most of my maintenance/service needs. Prior to my most recent visit, each time I attempted to schedule an appointment over the phone for an oil change, the service representative always advised me I didn’t need an appointment for that type of service. So over the course of the past two years, I would simply walk in and get my oil changed with no problem.

Well, on this particular day, I showed up and the representative at the counter asked, “Do you have an appointment”? I answered, “No, I was told I didn’t need one.” The representative then proceeded to tell me I did. I explained how each time I had attempted to make an appointment in the past, I was advised that I didn’t need one. He told me he could set me up with one for the future, but the dealership had no availability on that day. But I had driven to a side of town that had lots of traffic -- and during rush hour. Additionally, my work and personal schedule was pretty booked for the remainder of the week. In the words of internet sensation Sweet Brown, “Ain’t nobody got time for that!”

I asked, very nicely, “Why would your phone representative tell me I didn’t need an appointment if I did?” His response: “They don’t know what goes on back here.” I asked him if he had addressed these concerns with the team on the phones. His response was, “They should know to coordinate with us before telling customers that.”

For those of you who have taken the resiliency training, this was my Activating Event, my “A” of the ABCs. I thought to myself, “So your phone representatives don’t communicate with your team at the customer service counter? What’s up with that?”

Immediately, I put my ABC skills into play to change my thoughts about this situation. As I slowed down, I thought about how this incident, which I perceived as an anomaly at the time, in fact was not. I began to think about personnel I had spoken with on cases or unit walk visits -- or feedback I had received on survey tools that had addressed similar types of concerns -- and the stress and strain ineffective or poor communication had on their organizations. I decided I was not going to add to what appeared to be a stressful work environment at this dealership. So I decided to allow the service representative to schedule me an appointment and I then recommended that he attempt to resolve the communication challenges informally with his co-workers.


For me, I had taken advantage of many of the self-improvement services/courses offered by our wonderful Joint Base Charleston Community Action Team (CAT), formerly IDS e.g., resiliency training, professionalism training, etc. The CAT is comprised of all the various helping agencies on base -- the Equal Opportunity Office, Airman and Family Readiness Center, the Health and Wellness Center, Mental Health, Chapel and First Sergeants. These agencies offer a variety of courses/workshops designed to help us improve our human performance. The concepts and tools I had obtained from these trainings worked for me, because instead of shoving the material into my desk drawer at the end of training, I often reviewed it and attempted to put the tools into practice to better myself professionally and personally.

But what if I had handled this situation differently? What if I had gotten combative with the service representative at the counter? Through taking a different approach on addressing the issues, I learned what the underlying problem was -- communication. In essence, there was limited communication between the employees who worked the counter and those who worked the phones, which created frustrations. The communication barrier made it challenging for the team on the counters to perform their jobs and negatively affected interactions with some of the customers. However, the team on the counter had failed to communicate these challenges to the team that handled the phones.

So what’s the lesson in all of this?

No matter where you are in the organization, if communication is not effective, it can create bottlenecks in executing the mission as well create frustrations and stress among your team. Also, never assume that the other person knows or should know what you’re thinking. Clarify first, to ensure your assumptions are indeed facts. Lastly, in my experience as a human relations assessor, I’ve learned the bulk of many conflicts in our organizations stem from miscommunications. As leaders we should constantly attempt to sharpen our communication skills and be flexible in how we communicate with our leaders, co-workers and employees. Everyone doesn’t communicate the same.

Take advantage of the many services your CAT team has to offer you at Joint Base Charleston. You can contact our Community Support Coordinator, Ms. Michelle McMeekins, at 843-963-5476 or email to obtain information and resources on what our CAT has to offer.

Don’t be the domino that causes the fall in your unit!