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Harvard Library Strategic Conversations Hosts 'Conversations that Work at Work'

Laura Crandall, president of Slate Communication, on how to improve co-worker conversations.


November 13, 2012—Harvard Library Strategic Conversations (HLSC) hosted “Conversations that Work at Work” on November 8 at Gutman Library. The discussion, led by Laura Crandall, president of Slate Communication, focused on techniques for successful workplace communication.


Crandall observed that virtually all workplace problems “originate from breakdowns in communication.” Crandall, who tailored her presentation specifically to the Harvard Library, noted, “One challenge in a setting where everyone is so highly educated is that we tend to assume that people will have the skills to communicate well. Even highly educated people need to know—and practice—the basic skills of communicating with co-workers.” In academic settings, she added, people may expect that because everyone is smart, everyone has the same communication skill level.


Crandall said that every perceived misstep should be examined first with a sense of curiosity—Why did this breakdown or misunderstanding happen? What can we do differently to address it? The next steps, she maintained, are clarification and resolution. “With practice, maintaining a sense of humor and being self-reflective, you can improve your interactions with colleagues and managers.”


Crandall offered four key recommendations:

  • to communicate clearly;
  • to set expectations for those with whom you are communicating;
  • to get a commitment that the expectations are understood when you make a request; and
  • to follow through with the conversation by checking in on whether the expectations had been met.


Deborah Garson, librarian and head of reference at Gutman Library and member of the HLSC committee said, “I think there is always room for improvement in communications skills. I believe Laura offers skills and insights into the intricacies of conversation that can be applied anywhere.” Garson organized the event with committee members Lisa Junghahn, research librarian for the Harvard Law School Library, and Marilyn Morgan, manuscripts cataloger at the Schlesinger Library.


Learn more about Harvard Library Strategic Conversations here and about Slate Communication here.