Tina Lewis Rowe

Insights, Information & Inspiration

Being Informed Or Getting Informed?

Don't just be informed--purposely GET informed. (Photo by Aschwin Prein)Professor Herb Dordick (1925-1998) co-authored a book I was impressed with in the mid-1990s: The Information Society: A Retrospective View. It is required reading for many college level Communications classes. Dr. Dordick, by the way, seems to have been a very impressive man, who had a great deal to offer. One of the many concepts for which he is remembered is his categorizing of people into two groups: Those who are being informed and those who are getting informed.

Professor Dordick said only about 10 percent of us actively pursue new information, while the rest have us no strategy for what we learn. We listen to what we are told–which often consists of information that is stale, repetitious, half-truthful, outright false, unimportant and trivial, or presenting only one part of a complete picture. Eventually, if we’re not careful, we know, as someone once said, “more and more about less and less.”

This concept applies to several areas of our lives. In an election year it is particularly important to get informed by researching, double-checking and looking very carefully at the sources of our information, rather than only being informed, by the TV channel we watch or magazine or newspaper we read. It is also true about our financial planning, purchases, or other decisions. For employees, supervisors and managers it is particularly important to get informed.

  • If supervisors or managers wait for employees to voluntarily discuss work issues, personal problems that affect work, concerns, questions and ideas, it might never happen. Walking and talking, asking questions, listening intently and purposefully, checking reports and records, and talking to customers and clients to get a clearer picture, are crucial activities.
  • If supervisors or managers wait for employees to come to them to report personal performance or behavior gaps, that will not happen either. On the other hand, if the picture the supervisor gets of an employee is based on what is reported by an apparently trustworthy coworker, that view might be skewed. Purposefully observing and inspecting work is the only way to get fully informed and stay informed. An effective supervisor or manager knows about work based in large part on personal observation, supplemented with other information.
  • If employees at all levels get informed about what is happening in the organization by soaking up the latest gossip and speculation, they will nearly always have bad information. If they ask their supervisors or managers, they may not get all the information they seek, but it is more likely to be correct. They can add to that by considering situations based on past practices, what is logical, and their overall job knowledge.

Supervisors and managers have a dual obligation: To get informed and to provide information and insight to employees.

If you are a supervisor or manager and all you know is what you can figure out by having people come to your office and chat about their work, you won’t know much. But, if you regularly review a list of key statistics, reports and activities; if you stay involved every day so you can hear and see what happens in the real world of your workplace; and, if you have a good network of resources to give you their perspectives about your group’s work, you will know as much as you can know, and more than most supervisors and managers know.

Follow that by keeping employees informed as much as possible. Share what you can share, so they do not have to rely on gossip for their only source of information. They will gossip anyway, but at least you can help them develop a thought process for getting informed, that will allow them to more easily separate idle gossip from fact.

Sometimes we do not want to know the whole truth, no matter how much we say we do. Sometimes the truth is uncomfortable, depressing, frustrating or shocking. But, the truth about issues in our life and work is what we must know if we want to improve, make changes, or intervene. We also have to know the truth to fully understand, appreciate and build toward the future. How well informed are you about the issues that are vital to your life, personally and professionally? Don’t wait to be informed; get informed.

March 24th, 2008 Posted by | Life and Work, Personal and Professional Development, Supervision and Management | 2 comments


  1. You took an unusual but accurate approach to Professor Dordick’s work. His full name was Herbert Shalom Dordick, which those who knew him (I did not, I’m sorry to say, although I knew someone who did) would agree was appropriate.

    I appreciate your thoughts on these topics. Don

    Comment by Don Roberson | March 25, 2008

  2. Thank you VERY much for the middle name information. How interesting! I will do more research on him. Tina

    Comment by Tina | March 25, 2008

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