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I work as a software engineer in the mid-west US for a manufacturing company, which means that all I do is write Word documents. I have 5 managers and 10ish coworkers all with the same title. We report to each of them every day for a status report. When I give my status, it usually sounds like this:

"I finished writing the document that I started yesterday and emailed it to Jim for his approval".

My coworkers' status reports usually sound like this:

"At this time, the information that my person is able to share with pertaining group members as sufficiently validated, various outstanding report draft commissions have been progressed and solutioned in line with industry standard protocols. Furthermore routing has been achieved through a feedforward kickoff standpoint".

They're saying the same thing as me, but they make it so hard to understand. They usually say phrases that don't make grammatical sense. My managers don't speak this way, but they do seem to respond much better to that kind of speaking. They'll sometimes pick apart what I say and ask "what does finished mean? What does started mean?" but they don't do this with my coworkers who speak differently. Should I start trying to make my communications unclear on purpose to fit in with everyone else?

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  • People can communicate very clearly, but in a domain inappropriate manner. Or, they might communicate in a domain appropriate manner, but not clearly. Generally, absent an alternative, the latter can be preferred to the former. You might strive to communicate clearly and in a domain appropriate manner.
    – crasic
    Jul 15, 2021 at 16:39
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    I think the biggest problem is in your first sentence "I work as a software engineer in the mid-west US for a manufacturing company, which means that all I do is write Word documents.". You sound pretty unhappy about that, to be honest. Have you thought of looking for a different job? Jul 15, 2021 at 16:57
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    The status report from your co-workers doesn't sound realistic at all. Without a real example to go from, I don't think we can assess your situation accurately. For all we know, they're writing clearly, but you're just not understanding their jargon. Jul 21, 2021 at 7:23
  • An actual copy of the text would be useful. The example looks like it is created with the assumption that it is useless jargon.
    – Nelson
    Jul 21, 2021 at 9:52

4 Answers 4

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Your answers assume known context

Your answer assumes that the particular document is known and that the reasons Jim needs to approve it are known. They also provide no indicator of where you are in completing a task. I find that many managers remember next to nothing that you tell them, so this information must be packaged into every conversation.

Your co-workers answer is verbose, but it explains specifically what has been done, where they are, and what the next steps are.

If you are meaningfully aware of what is going on, your answer is useful. If your manager is coming along once a day for 15 minutes, it is not useful.

Status reports are for management, no matter how much people say that they are to sync the team. Management is often not paying much attention beyond those status reports. Act accordingly.

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    imho the same applies for the rest of the team. As a team member I also don't remember what other team members do (unless we work together on something), until the point where it affects me or I hear something that makes me want to provide feedback etc. So imho your answer applies also for anyone who thinks that status reports are for the team ;) (plus, in a nice good flat team, the manager is part of the team ;P) Jul 17, 2021 at 5:37
  • Since above answer does not tell how to "act accordingly", let me spell it out: - Keep being clear. Do not become "unclear" on purpose. "Fancy" words can be useful if they carry/imply more information than the simple verion, but clear sentence-structure is always useful. - Elaborate. Your original text can be a "tl;dr" in the beginning. After that, describe some "substeps" you took, reasons for any decisions, time spent and time-estimates for outstanding work and outstanding decisions (with your planned course of action). I will give an example in the following comment (character-limit) Jul 19, 2021 at 10:36
  • "I finished writing the document that I started yesterday and emailed it to Jim for his approval" "I was working on the quaterly automation-report. I had started yesterday by writing a rundown on the progress made in production-hall A and B. Today I added the text for production-hall C and wrote the conclusion. All in all I spent about 7 work-hours on this. Since Jim is the one who has to sign up on these reports, I sent it to him for approval. I expect his answer somewhen during next week. Till then I will be reviewing the bug-reports that Jannet has sent me last week." Jul 19, 2021 at 10:41
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Does the industry/company/team you work in use specific terminology that is designed to make communications less vague? If yes then it would make sense to adopt that terminology and use it in your communications. For example, if people reading your reports find the terms "started" and "finished" unclear, I would suggest setting up some time with your supervisor and asking them to help you rephrase some of your recent reports to adjust them to the industry/company/team standards. You should take notes of the terminology your supervisor suggests you use and apply it in your future comms.

Purposefully trying to communicate less clearly is definitely not a good idea.

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    This sounds about right. The OP says they finished the document but also says it's awaiting approval from Jim. That doesn't sound like it's finished, if your standard of finished includes being reviewed and approved (and maybe archived and/or distributed afterwards).
    – Stuart F
    Jul 16, 2021 at 16:04
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Do you have a history of not being done when you say you are? I've had the "what is the meaning of 'done'" converstation at several companies. People have a tendency to say it's done when it's coded but not fully tested. Or merged but not released. Or a dozen other things. Engineers tend to think of "done" as code being written, where the PMs think "done" means released to customers, or at least merged to the next release. Are the other engineers using specific terms to differentiate states like that?

"Started" is also vague. Did you just open a branch but did nothing else? Or are you 20% done with the task and know your way to a solution? You may need to go into more depth.

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I think you have to "adapt" your way of communicating to the others to not look as an alien. I know this sounds strange but even if I prefer your way to communicate and even if it seems that "be different" is a tolerated thing (but only to be politically correct), people who dress, speak, or think different are not accepted. You have to camouflage yourself.

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