"What we have here is ….. failure to communicate"

OK maybe I’m sucking up to Maren Hogan (Hi Maren) but I couldn’t resist this after the Saturday I’ve just had.

We’ve been renovating at home over the last month or so. I am not handy with these things at all, so we employed a builder to look after things for us. Things started off with a flourish, things got uninstalled, frames got put up, man we were flying.

Things started to go awry though, when it became clear that budgeting wasn’t this builders forte. He was pretty ordinary at man management to, delegation, motivation etc.

That’s fine, my wife is pretty good at these things, an HR Manager by trade, a child wrangler by choice, so she helped out. After a fairly blunt meeting, she began to helping Manage this guy, manage others.

Life was good again, things were happening, taking shape, we were going to hit our time lines as agreed.


About a month ago, things stopped happening. He asked for more money, outside the (constantly revised) budget. I knocked him back, saying enough was enough, deliver what you promised. It became a matter of principle.. the well was dry! We had a blunt but friendly conversation, and we agreed on a way forward.

Or so I thought… He didn’t turn up again. Excuses came via text message re his non attendance. I’d call get his voice mail, and then receive a text message response. These messages became shorter and shorter, terser and terser, until the point where I’d had enough and had to start discussing my legal options.

I wasn’t getting anywhere fast. We changed tactics. I handed over communication to my wife, who by the way is 7 months pregnant (OK I was trying to punish him!) He responded to her (she is hard to ignore) and made commitments to coming back and finishing the job. We were very pleased with ourselves. Good cop, bad cop.. success!


He didn’t keep that commitment, instead sending a text message 3 hours after the agreed appointment time, saying he was in a bad way and couldn’t make it.

We were shattered. We called his mobile… disconnected.. we called his home phone… disconnected. Our hearts sank. We weren’t getting this job finished. We were out of ideas and to be honest pretty flat. We’d lost all modes of communication. Me a seasoned Recruiter, my wife an HR Pro… how could we both misread someone so much?

After a day of wallowing, we took positive action. We checked out our rights, and began making other arrangements.

This post has got longer than expected… sorry.


Earlier this week, my wife went out.. when she returned there was a note on our door. From our builder, committing to coming over today (Saturday) to talk to us. We were shattered, that she’d missed him, yet not convinced that he would actually convinced he’d turn up.

We left messages again (his phones were back on) towards the end of the week to confirm times, and got silence in return. Thankfully this morning I received a text saying he would make it this afternoon.


Boy, did we have a big conversation.

What we learned…. He was having a hard time with things. His van had blown up, he’d over committed to a number of people not just us, and was in way over his head. He’d assumed that we were a bottomless pit of money as we have a nice house in a nice area and have a nice car. It rocked him when reality hit, and he couldn’t think of a way out. He was avoiding people, and he hadn’t mentioned a few other things to us which I won’t expand on.

Bottom line, he wants to finish the job and will finish the job, he just wasn’t in a position to do so, for a variety of reasons at the time.

My wife and I took a collective breath and said fine.

We understand that stuff happens.. People mess up… We had to however explain to him that we aren’t mind readers and if we aren’t kept informed we naturally have to start planning and thinking the worst. By not communicating with us, we were starting to prepare for war.

We talked it out and came to a good understanding of each other.

It’s amazing the mess that appears when communication falls over. Fear fueled it. We were scared the job wouldn’t be finished, he was scared of our reaction. When he found the courage to face us and not rely on text messaging as a form of communication we found a solution, that it seems all parties are happy with.

There is no substitute to talking with someone face to face. Please, do not get seduced with the ease of communication with these new tools of twittering, texting, or even just emailing or writing letter. Get face to face… You will clear up misunderstandings, you won’t assume tone, You’ll learn more, you’ll get more out of it.

Nothing is wrong with old school.

Posted on January 23, 2010, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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