What the Ellen Pao Trial Teaches About Communication Styles

Turns out having a human resources department is good for business.  And it’s even better when said HR department helps employees learn about different communication styles.  The Ellen Pao bias trial is a great example of this.

What the Ellen Pao Trial Teaches About Communication StylesMs. Pao sued her employer, Kleiner Perkins, for bias in the workplace.  Bias is way more subtle than outright harassment or discrimination but it’s harmful to employees, nevertheless.  The male-dominated tech sector in particular is rife with communication issues, especially when the company grows beyond just a few employees.  Kleiner Perkins is a venture capital firm, and VC firms find themselves smack in the middle of the technology industry.

Diversity Means a Range of Communication Styles

The larger the company, the more diverse it’s likely to become, even in the tech industry which is slowly opening up to women.  Diversity means all sorts of things, but what we’re interested in here at Magnovo is a diversity of communication styles.

The problem at Kleiner Perkins, according to Ms. Pao’s lawyers, was that there was no HR department.  That meant when communication issues arose, there was nobody to handle them, and no company handbook to refer to.  Of course it also meant the company was less likely to schedule any sort of team building training for their employees, without an HR department to guide them.

Without Training, How do Employees Recognize Different Communication Styles?

At trial, Kleiner Perkins’ lawyers argued that Ms. Pao was all about “Team Ellen.”  The company stated that what they wanted from their partners was people who demonstrated “teamwork“.  In a company with no HR department and no clear outline of what was expected from employees, what does teamwork even mean?  Of course it’s OK to leave that to management, and managers schedule team building events every day, but with no formal structure in place for this sort of stuff, Ms. Pao was at a loss.

It just goes to show us all that communication is just as important as everything else when it comes to running a successful business.  Had Kleiner Perkins invested a little bit in helping its employees speak to one another by understanding the various types of communication styles, perhaps they’d have saved themselves a lot of money in legal fees.  Perhaps Ms. Pao would have understood what was expected of her, and perhaps her managers could have recognized the signs of discontent a little sooner had they invested in regular teamwork training.

In short, perhaps Magnovo could have helped!