You might not realise how much of an impact communication has in your workplace. If businesses placed more of an emphasis on communication in the workplace nearly 70% of employees would be more productive and 4.6x more motivated to produce quality work.
On the other hand, when communication is poor it can cause all sorts of problems from ineffective collaboration, conflicts and low morale. In fact, 86% of employees have cited poor communication as the main cause of workplace failures.
In this blog, we’ll be showing you exactly what can cause poor workplace communication and a bunch of ways to improve poor communication in your workplace.
What is poor workplace communication?
When communication is good, employees will understand the message that you’re trying to get across, crystal clear. But when communication is poor, situations can be misinterpreted and result in a bad fallout. Poor communication happens when there is inconsistency in what is said and what is interpreted and this can be between colleagues, teams and managers and leadership.
Let’s paint a picture… It’s Wednesday and your manager says that they need a deadline for a project by next week. Your to-do list is jam-packed and so you assume they mean by the end of the week on Friday, but they really need it by the beginning of the week on Monday. Monday rolls around and just as you’re starting the work, they said it needs to be completed. Because communication was poor this has now caused a misunderstanding and a delayed deadline that will impact the project.
This is just one of many scenarios that can arise from poor workplace communication. Let’s go through all the potential causes of workplace communication.
7 Causes of Poor Workplace Communication
Poor Communication Skills
Without good lines of communication company, messages will get lost, there’ll be a lack of collaboration and connection and a huge dip in employee engagement. If not rectified then this can have a huge impact on employee retention rates.
Misunderstandings tend to come from a lack of detail. When communicating with people it’s important to be as specific as possible so there is no room for misinterpretation. If you’re on the receiving end of communications then if you’re unsure ask questions or if you’re relaying information then encourage people to ask questions in case you’ve missed things out.
Goals and objectives are the things that drive your employees and give everyone that sense of purpose in their job roles. In order to succeed in their roles, employees must know exactly what's expected of them in their job roles and what they need to do to be able to accomplish tasks. If leaders and managers don’t provide clear direction it can lead to confusion and employees underperforming.
The way leaders communicate sets the tone for the whole company as good communication trickles down from the top. If leaders are indecisive and don’t take charge and communicate the company's objectives, goals and vision then it will often lead to an uninspired team, lack of morale and confused employees.
Ever heard of Chinese whispers? Office rumours and gossip can spread and cause people to believe inaccurate information. Mitigate the spread of any office rumours and gossip by keeping employees constantly updated with current information.
Fear of Punishment
If your employees are worried about saying how they feel for fear of punishment, they might be withholding key information that is crucial to the business. Having a transparent communication style and encouraging a culture of honest communication and healthy conflict is so important for making employees feel comfortable and that they can be honest in their roles.
Find it difficult to create a culture where healthy conflict is the norm? Check out our Comms In a Nutshell podcast episode - Creating a Healthy Workplace Culture for expert tips.
Poor Remote Communication
Written and verbal communication are equally as important as each other, with written comms being more important now than ever before with the rise of remote working. Face to face interaction communication is better because we can interpret verbal cues easily, so a lack of cues in written communication can leave room for misinterpretation.
Poor written communication skills can lead to unclear messaging and tone which can make it difficult to understand and those who struggle with written communication might struggle with understanding information properly. Good written communication uses plain and simple language, and is grammatically correct, precise and professional.
Before sending off comms, why not check with colleagues. A fresh pair of eyes can be great for spotting things and making suggestions to improve your messaging. Or when sending out project information or briefs, send out a team meeting to go through details to make sure everything is understood.
10 Ways to Improve Poor Communication in the Workplace
When you’re communicating, really pay attention to how you’re communicating. Ask yourself questions… What is the most important thing I’m trying to get across here? Who is my audience, do they understand what I’m talking about or do I need to change the way I’m talking about it? What is the receiver's communication style?
Communicating well is not as easy as people think but with some prior thought and preparation, you’ll be able to get your messages across crystal clear. Another incredibly important aspect of communicating is listening.
By showing that you pay attention to your employees and show that you’re interested in who they are as people and their interests outside of work they’ll feel more comfortable around you and that element of trust and honesty will be there. Your employees will be more likely to communicate well with you if there is a level of trust.
Be Understanding of Different Communication Styles
When your role entails communicating and connecting with a lot of people then it’s important to take communication styles into play as we’re all human and not everyone communicates exactly the same.
Having all of these types of communicators in your business is essential as they all bring their strengths and so you must communicate with them effectively. There are four main styles of communication in the workplace:
Direct communication is clear and concise with no beating around the bush. What you see is what you get, with no hidden messages. People with a direct communication style just want actionable information that is straight to the point with no ‘fluff’.
Direct communicators don’t like small talk, they’ll zone out if the information isn’t relevant to them and want the information they need quickly so they can get straight to work. This communication style can come across as aggressive or assertive but the benefits of direct communication are that you know exactly what someone is thinking.
Analytical: Also known as functional communicators, this type of communication style focuses on the importance of detail and value. These communicators are focused on carefully devised plans, processes and preparation leaving no margin for error. These communicators are passionate about detail and so need every step of a project or process mapped out and explained.
Analytical communicators prefer hard data and facts over emotional stories and make logic based decisions rather than go with their intuition or gut feelings. They’re not people who tend to go with the flow and improve, however, their attention to detail means they notice details that others might miss. Make sure you map out each step of the process and explain not just the end goal, but why each step is important in achieving the end goal.
Collaborative: Collaborative communicators are all about employee voice and making sure everyone feels heard and valued. They want opinions and feedback galore from as many people as possible and therefore thrive in group projects.
These types of communicators will not make a decision unless everyone's opinion has been considered and tend to choose solutions that help the biggest number of people. They put others before themselves and will take longer to make decisions. Make sure you ask them for their opinion and perspective and give them firm deadlines so they have something concrete to work towards.
Expressive: Expressive communicators focus on social interactions and creating a positive atmosphere, these people like to move fast and have fun. Expressive communicators focus a lot on the “why” rather than the “how”.
They’re blue sky thinkers with big ideas and like having big discussions rather than focusing on details and instructions. They can change their mind a lot and focus on the future rather than the here and now. Communicate with expressive people by asking what their vision, thoughts and feelings are about projects and help them turn their ideas into practical solutions. Keep the number of projects relatively small so they can focus well.
Conduct regular Weekly Team Meetings
Creating a culture where teams catch up regularly and are aware of what each other is working on is an essential step of good communication. If your teams don’t talk to one another, how will you collaborate and innovate? Having scheduled meetings, will foster a sense of team spirit and create opportunities for team members to build good relationships with one another. This makes it easy for colleagues to communicate with one another outside of scheduled meetings.
Conduct regular 1:1s
It’s important to have a balance of group meetings and 1:1 meetings with individual employees. 1:1s are an amazing opportunity to really dive into what your individual team members are thinking and collecting feedback and insights.
Schedule 1:1s with your employees at dedicated times that best suit them throughout the week so they know that they have that time to talk about work and any other queries. These meetings can be for current tasks and priorities, discussing ideas and any problems employees are experiencing and their happiness at work.
Know your Audience
When communicating with people, really think about who you’re talking to… is it a department who have known you for a long time and understands you as a person or are they new employees who are in an unfamiliar environment and need a lot of explanation?
When communicating in the workplace, consider your audience and what they need to get out of this communication. What questions might they have, what details are essential for them to know, and what might they need you to expand and explain more about? Think carefully and consider their needs.
Recognise Great Employees
Imagine if you never told your employees what a great job they were doing? Your workforce would feel unmotivated and like they weren’t appreciated which can lead to unsatisfied employees. Make sure you’re properly communicating to employees when they’re performing well and recognise their hard work to make them feel valued.
Oak Engage has its own inbuilt Employee Recognition software so you can celebrate any work achievement big or small, and even celebrate moments like birthdays, work anniversaries and more!
Offer Proper Constructive Criticism
Giving criticism can be hard but there are ways to do it properly. When offering constructive feedback make sure you do it in private and try to put a positive spin on it. Find something positive about their work and then make a suggestion for how it needs to be improved or done differently. Offer constructive feedback in 1:1s so that it seems less like an isolated incident for the employee and more like a review of everything they're working on.
Use Intranet Platforms to Share Company Messages
Having a specialised digital workspace where employees know they can access company news, updates and events as they are announced is a great way of keeping employees up to date. If employees hear updates second-hand or from whispers around the office it can make them feel out of the loop and undervalued and so it’s important to have a central place where you can communicate to all your employees at the click of a button!
Ask for Regular Feedback
Getting feedback from staff is the best way to improve your company, your culture and the overall experience for your employees. Offering anonymous feedback surveys where your employees can be open and honest will enable you to get regular feedback on certain topics and thus continue to improve your workplace.
You’ll discover patterns and trends that might flag up any problem areas or ways that things can be done differently. And most importantly, you’ll find out what your employees care about and you’ll make their voices feel heard and valued. This alone has a huge impact on communication and employee engagement itself.
Make Resources & Documents Easily Accessible
Employees can spend a huge portion of their day just searching for the right documents that they need and endless content sources it can bring a huge hit to their motivation. Oak integrates with Office 365, Sharepoint and a range of other third-party platforms and has a powerful search tool so you can easily access and manage your content and employees can complete any task with ease anytime, anywhere from any device.
By learning about the causes of poor communication, thinking carefully about the way you communicate with people and using the right tools to allow you to communicate with various individuals in your workplace, you’ll be able to take your communication from poor to professional in no time.
Do you have any suggestions for addressing and transforming poor communication in the workplace? We would love to hear them on social media. Get in touch!