• Tara Humphrey

3 Top Tips on How to Manage Conflicting Messages

Updated: Nov 7, 2018

I was recently having a conversation with a colleague who was explaining to me that he has had to write a report multiple times as every time he submitted it, he was asked to change it as it wasn’t quite right, and it was driving him to despair.  

This got me thinking about how I manage conflicting messages and whilst there is no blanket or universal approach, the following ideas may be helpful.

1. Clarifying Questions

When you are given a task, clarify the expectations. Below I have provided a few examples.


  • is the report for?

  • has the final approval?


  • is the objective?

  • are the rules for submission?

  • format does this need to be submitted?


  • now?


  • is the data to support this work?


  • does this work need to be submitted?


  • important is this piece of work?

Whilst you may not get answers to all of these questions, hopefully, through this process, you will know more than you knew, and you will know where to place your efforts. Also I would seek the answers in person and clarify them in writing.

2. Don’t canvas too many opinions

When we are not sure what to do, it’s quite natural to ask around to get different perspectives. Here I would caution against this unless it’s your line manager or person responsible for signing the document off as you run the risk of inviting conflicting messages.

3. Don’t expect to get it 100% right the first time

I hope I’m not alone when I say that it’s not uncommon to get asked to perform a task when the goal post moves, the criteria is vague or I’m presented with missing information.

Also, I may submit the piece of work which met all the answers to the clarifying questions, but the work needed to be redone as the client then changed their mind, or the context changed.

It used to really frustrate me, but I have learnt to expect to not get it right the first time and to expect revisions. Everything is a draft until the final submission, and I want the work to be as right as it can be.