‘Recollections may vary,’ Britain’s late Queen Elizabeth famously said. And the fallout can be devastating when there’s a discrepancy between what’s said and what’s heard. We only have to look at the recent trials and tribulations of the Royal Family for confirmation. But it’s not just our personal lives that are affected by poor communication. The impact on workplace culture can be just as damaging. Low morale, confusion, mistrust, and conflict are just some of the toxic outcomes. Collaboration, performance, and productivity take a massive hit when poor communication sets in.
Unsurprisingly, it’s one of the most common workplace concerns cited by employees and many organizations. And with good reason. According to SHRM, miscommunication costs small businesses around $420,000 a year. And for larger companies, it’s an eye-watering $62.4 million. But the good news is that you can take action to turn things around.
Check out these 11 tips to tackle poor communication in the workplace.
What Is Poor Workplace Communication?
Poor communication occurs when there’s a breakdown in understanding between the communicator and the recipient.
A simple example is when a manager requests a data set from an employee by Monday. On the face of it, that looks like a clear instruction. However, the team member’s interruption is that the information is needed by the end of the day. The manager hasn’t said it’s required for a 10 am meeting. The failure to communicate objectives leaves employees feeling confused. And it impacts the work of others and overall team performance.
What Are The Causes Of Poor Internal Communications?
The biggest problem is that we assume too much. We tend to think of ourselves as natural communicators, and communicating is, well, common sense, right? We presume our message has gotten through loud and clear. However, that’s not always the case, as we saw in the example above. The manager didn’t set clear expectations and missed key information about the deadline. They thought the employee understood what was required with the data set request. However, the staffer received a completely different message.
There is also a range of other workplace factors at play, including the following:
Good communication isn’t something we learn at school. And just like any other skill, it needs to be worked on. Leaders play a crucial role in relaying messages up, down, and across the organization. If managers are ineffective communicators, the whole network falls over, unleashing confusion and frustration. And when communication lines are blurred, it creates an uneasy environment, impacting employee morale and company culture.
You wouldn’t dream of managing your sales team without clear goals and objectives. And yet when it comes to communication in the workplace, there are often no guidelines. Good team communication doesn’t just happen magically. Like every other aspect of your business, it requires explicit policies. Think timeframes, channels, and expectations, so you know you are achieving the desired outcomes.
There’s only one way to find out whether your workplace communication is up to scratch – ask your people. Two-way communication and effective feedback are critical. Have an open-door policy, and check in regularly with employees to dig deep into your state of health. Is communication being received in the right way and at the right time? Clarify points made and ensure you act on the feedback.
What Are The Effects Of Poor Communication In The Workplace?
If you are still trying to figure out the effects of poor communication, here’s a reminder. As you will see, the consequences are far-reaching, perhaps more than you realize.
Low Morale And High Turnover
With the Great Resignation in full swing, the last thing you need is low self-esteem and morale taking hold. Messages that are lost in translation breed confusion, frustration, and stress. It creates the perfect climate for demoralized employees to flourish. Employee engagement takes a dive. And employees don’t know what’s going on. They crave a sense of direction and clarity. And without it, they will leave in their droves.
Poor communication in the workplace also impacts current and potential customers. Failure to meet that deadline or miss an appointment, and your customers will take their business elsewhere. And if your people lack proper context, how can they deliver the customer service you expect? Unhappy clients are an underestimated consequence of poor communication in the workplace.
Communication issues can lead to mistrust and conflict. They threaten the open culture and harmonious social relationships that are the foundation of every top-performing business.
Without good communication, joint working is impossible. Missed deadlines and delayed projects combine with decreased productivity and performance to hit your bottom line. Poor communication skills will cost your business valuable dollars.
The Grapevine Takes Root
Marvin Gaye won’t be the only person to have heard it through the grapevine. In the absence of good communication, the grapevine will flourish. Employees resort to unofficial channels to get the news and updates they need. Gossip and rumors spread, and your people will start believing inaccurate information.
11 Ways To Fix Poor Workplace Communication
Do it well, and workplace communication helps drive businesses forward. Employees feel empowered and understand the company’s mission and their contribution to the big picture. Getting workplace communication right isn’t just nice to have. Nowadays, it’s a necessity if you want to remain competitive.
If you think communication problems are holding your business back, check out these practical solutions and get back on track.
1. Develop A Communications Strategy
Don’t leave your internal communications to chance. If you are serious about improving communication, take control by developing a strategy. Check out our Internal Communications Strategy: 15 Tips post for all you need to know. The bottom line is that a plan will focus attention by setting out a budget, expectations, and measurable goals. Not only will it help leaders to be more effective communicators, but it also introduces transparency and accountability.
2. Know Your Audience
As we have seen, one of the stumbling blocks to effective communication in the workplace is that we assume too much. You may think you know what employees want and need, but do you really? Engage with your people to fully understand their needs. And remember, there will be more than one internal audience. Different cultures, teams, job roles, and even generations will have differing requirements.
3. Use The Right Channels To Communicate At The Right Time
Close any communication gaps by ensuring everyone uses the proper channels at the right time. For example, a critical project update is best delivered by business IM. An emailed update will only get buried in overflowing inboxes. Decide what type of messages you typically need to provide and the most appropriate channel. Then, ensure staff members are aware of your expectations.
4. Professional Development For Managers
Not every manager is an effective communicator. Even good leaders can benefit from professional development. Set up a program of comms training for all leaders. That way, you keep their skills and knowledge sharp. Active listening skills, questioning techniques to clarify understanding, and providing feedback are just some of the skills your leaders need.
And remember to include training on varied nonverbal cues. Only a surprising seven percent of our communication is verbal. Often, we forget how much we convey through our body language, tone of voice, and posture. Your managers may not realize that body language accounts for 55 percent of daily communication.
5. Take Control Of Meetings
Love ‘em or loathe ‘em, meetings are a fact of life in every business, making them a vital comms channel. Poorly run meetings are a waste of everyone’s time. Make sure yours are effective by encouraging a few good habits.
Keep get-togethers short and focused, with an agenda sent out in advance. Invite only those employees who need to be there and effectively chair the meetings by keeping everyone on topic. Make sure you come up with clear action steps for participants to take away. And finally, set aside time to communicate. In the rush to get things done, we don’t give ourselves the space to communicate. Dedicate five or ten minutes to share news, updates, or insights in every meeting.
6. Connect With Remote Employees
Remote working or hybrid employees often feel out of the loop. They don’t have the same opportunities to connect as their in-person colleagues. Organizations have to work harder to keep the lines of communication open. Thankfully, the tech is there to make that happen. Whether it’s intranets, video conferencing, or messaging apps, make sure your remote employees are part of the conversation.
7. Promote Feedback And Two-Way Conversations
Effective communication is a two-way process. Find opportunities to harvest feedback from your workers. Employee surveys and snap polls are fantastic tools for encouraging workers to share their views on communication and a host of other issues. Plus, it helps you monitor the impact of your messaging.
And look to develop two-way communication channels like interactive blogs, Q&As, and town hall sessions. Giving employees a voice will improve motivation, morale, and engagement.
8. Develop A Culture Of Appreciation
It’s a fact that people work better when their efforts are recognized. According to a Gallup survey, 74 percent said receiving praise made them feel more valuable.
However, when it comes to workplace comms, we often focus on the negatives. We spend time examining what went wrong and analyzing mistakes. However, it’s just as important to emphasize the positives and give praise when it’s due. An employee recognition program is a powerful platform for managers to communicate gratitude. Sharing success stories empowers and encourages the workforce to improve continuously.
9. Centralize Resources And Information
Whether internal documents, company policies, or project descriptions, ensure employees can access all the resources they need. Free and easy access to company knowledge helps with the flow of information. And it means employees can find answers to questions without asking their colleagues or superiors. A centralized platform like the intranet does away with confusion and uncertainty, making it easier to work effectively.
10. Invest In IM
Fast and effective, business IM levels the communication playing field for all employees, including remote ones. Issues can be addressed immediately, decision-making is speeded up, and sharing of ideas and information is streamlined.
What’s more, tagged channels, threads, alerts, and notifications boost relevancy and address the problem of overload. Your people will love the personalization options in team chat. And features like emojis add an irresistible, fun element.
11. Mix Things Up
When it comes to communication, we usually think of verbal or written communication. But there are other ways to reach workers. In fact, mixing things up with different options can mean you reach even more employees.
Instead of relying on a printed newsletter or team meetings, why not use videos, podcasts, infographics, and images? Variety is the spice of life, so the old saying goes. If you want to improve communication, try incorporating new media, which may resonate more with your employees of different backgrounds and preferences.
Are you motivated to turn around poor communication in the workplace? Get in touch with the expert team at MyHub. Our easy-to-use intranet software may be just what you need. Under one virtual roof are all the tools and features your business needs to improve communication and transform the workplace. Sign up for a free demo or 14-day trial today.