Communication Breakdown

I am a principal who often needs to consult with a member of the district staff, but recently she’s become unreachable. Staffing cuts last fall mean she doesn’t have an office assistant to take calls or schedule appointments. Her voice mailbox is full and won’t accept new messages, Emails bounce back for the same reason, and faxes are ignored. When staff was laid off, the decision-makers said that communications technologies would help fill the gap, but that’s clearly not the case here. What do I do?

Without knowing more about you and your district, it’s difficult to give advice that will help you achieve the results you want in a proactive way. But I can tell you that what you’re experiencing is becoming increasingly common.

Communication technologies are a mixed blessing. The initiator expects a timely response, but growing numbers of recipients are overwhelmed with the volume of incoming messages and simply shut down. By allowing mailboxes to fill up or fax trays to overflow, they are creating a buffer by making it impossible to be contacted. Although this may offer immediate relief, it creates problems for everyone in the long run.

The personal touch may be a good strategy. Drive to the district office and hope to catch this person in her office, or leave a note inviting her out for coffee. If you can make personal contact, you may be able to sit down with her and work out a plan for regular communication that meets your needs and hers.

Next Tip: TBD