Overview: Have you ever noticed that “official” policies in some organizations don’t always match the actual practices or norms of the employees? Why does that happen? In part, because not everyone likes to follow rules. But, even among committed leaders and diligent employees, “unofficial” ways of doing things often do not reflect the official policy or practices differ across organizational units. In short, policy and practice are not always the same. At least part of this conundrum can be explained by people interpreting the same policy in different ways. This illustrates how meaning is created and shared through communication, because simply having a written policy does not guarantee that everyone will follow it, let alone agree on its exact meaning in every circumstance.
Communication is at the heart of everything we do, because it helps us make sense of the world around us. And communication is complicated. Just reflect on how communication practices in organizations shifted so dramatically over the last year, due to COVID-19. For leaders in health care organizations, there has never been a more important time to reflect on not only what they are communicating to their employees and constituents, but also how they are communicating, and with what effect. The way leaders talk about and enact policies and practices with their employees sets the tone for the entire organization. High quality communication from organizational leaders is associated with higher employee satisfaction, employee retention, and better customer service.