We can often feel frustrated at work, and in my experience as a Project Manager and Communication Strategist, I’ve come to learn that although we can’t escape the feeling cropping up every now and then, there are things that we can do to minimise the misunderstandings and tensions when working in teams and with clients.
Depending on what your role is will depend on the levels of frustration you might come up against in work and the challenges you’ll face, however, there is one tool that can help to make a universal difference in how we work: communication.
It’s no surprise to see communication skills coming up on almost every job listing; they are key for when we’re working collaboratively and solving problems. And so, I wanted to explore how this looks in the industry and gather some golden rules from Adam Tiratsoo, Animation and Illustration Producer, and Clare Walsh, Creative Director, that we can put into practice to help shake off the frustration.
1) Take a break
Studies have shown that emails affect stress levels and can limit your ability to focus. It can often feel as though we’re trapped into responding to every query immediately but sometimes a bit of time away can help clear your mind and diffuse the situation. Stand up, move away from your computer and take five minutes.
Producers and Project Managers are often fielding queries and resolving problems. Adam says that ‘sometimes it can be useful to have a chat with a colleague about your frustrations. Sharing your thoughts and getting a second opinion can help to trigger a resolution.’
Creatives have different considerations to Producers and Project Managers, and Clare gives a different insight. ‘Quite often email chains involving lots of people on cc can be self-perpetuating, and actually end up resolving themselves to a certain degree without your input. I’d wait longer than five minutes to reply, maybe 30 minutes.’
2) Think about the bigger picture
The work we do is part of a bigger picture. Sure, you might not know what all the job titles on the many emails you receive mean but everyone plays a different part in the process. And sure, it is really annoying to receive unclear feedback or feel like you’re going back to square one, but remember there are lots of demands on colleagues and clients that you don’t know about.
Adam agrees, “it can be too easy to think of yourself and forget there is a whole company around you who you’re working with.” Remember the bigger picture, and then bring that focus back to the task at hand.
3) Be inquisitive
You might have heard the phrase ‘interrogate a brief’ and conjured up an image of a dodgy cop show, but it’s true that taking time to pick apart a brief can save you a lot of headache down the line. Clare is surprised by the number of clients who are unwilling to supply a written brief, but says that ‘If you can get someone to commit to a brief in writing, it forces them to plan ahead more and thus save you time and them money.’
When responding to a brief, think about the considerations that will impact your work and use your experience of previous projects to inform this. For example, has the client considered extra formats that you’ve created for previous projects? You can tell them upfront that if you plan for it now it will take only, for example, one extra day and associated cost, but if it’s required at the end after the work has been delivered it could take, for example, four extra days and a much bigger cost.
4) Share your knowledge
Value your skillset and be aware that issues that are obvious to you may not be obvious to others. Adam advises people not to be ‘afraid to assert yourself in meetings’ or you risk missing ‘an opportunity to put your point across, which could’ve been a great addition to the conversation.’
Your clients and colleagues may ask for things that are not possible, which can be really frustrating. Oftentimes, this can be because they don’t understand how your process works, and so it can seem like anything is possible. Take the time to explain your process and why certain things won’t work or will take a lot of time. It can be annoying to have these conversations frequently, but it makes the process a lot smoother and can encourage repeat business.
Sometimes, despite your best efforts, a client may not see your point, which is why Clare advises that ‘it’s always best to over estimate how long things will take, and then you can over achieve and supply early. Nobody is impressed by a missed deadline!’