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Markkula Center for Applied Ethics

Honesty & Reliability in Team Communication

Rafael Guerrero

Central to all efforts within any team is communication. While this may seem to be a very basic element of team operation, communication between team members can be the single determining factor for the failure or success of any engineering design project. Because of this, it is the responsibility of engineers across all disciplines to concern themselves with demonstrating virtues of honesty and reliability in team communication in their practice.

Both honesty and reliability in communication have the goal of ensuring that information communicated within teams and to others outside of the team is transmitted clearly, fully, concisely, and directly. It comes to the detriment of all team members involved when information arrives to someone with ambiguity, is incomplete or untrue, is buried in irrelevant information, or has to pass through multiple avenues or middle-men before it can be acted on. Moreover, it is essential for communication to be done in a timely manner that respects the time of others and the timeline of the project at hand. This includes holding design team meetings, which are of utmost necessity for meeting project goals by “planning the work and working the plan”.

Communication makes progress. In engineering work, honest and reliable communication is expected as a small part of what it means to be a professional-- anything short of professional violates the virtues of the company and those enumerated in each engineering disciplines’ code of ethics. A crucial part of forming your design team is designating the modes and expectations of communication of your fellow team members.

An important note: as far as professional communication goes in the 21st century, email is THE way that professionals communicate with each other. Expect to use email to communicate with:

  • SCU professors, faculty and administration.
  • Your faculty advisor.
  • Clientele, business contacts.

When establishing team expectations on communication, it is helpful to discuss the following:

  • Media of communication:
    • What is going to be the primary means of immediate internal team communication? (e.g., asking for help on an assignment, designating work, questions, live updates on project work).
      • Social media: Facebook messenger groups, GroupMe, Slack, WeChat, WhatsApp.
      • Teleconference apps: Skype, Facetime, Facebook messenger, WeChat, Viber.
      • Phone/text: iPhone group text, Android text.
    • What is an expected response time to team emails/messages?
    • What is appropriate/inappropriate for your team to discuss on this medium? (e.g, team updates, criticisms/praise for other team members, memes, communication problems between team members). Note: your communication culture reflects heavily on the work culture of your team. Practice what you wish to bring into the workforce.
  • Point contact(s):
    • From your design team, who will be designated to manage communication of information to and from people outside of the team? (e.g., faculty, lab managers, clients/customers).
  • Delivery of criticism/praise:
    • How do you prefer to receive criticism/praise from your teammates? How/when can you best communicate this to your team?
    • How does your fellow teammate prefer to receive criticism/praise? How/when is the best time to communicate these to your teammate?
Jun 29, 2018