Communication myths distort business leaders’ outlook and keep them from locking in sound strategy on a critical part of their business.
There are a million different companies out there, but there’s one thing they all have in common. They rely on communication to drive business forward. And there’s something else they might have in common: falling prey to communication myths.
From core values to culture practices, from conflict resolution to recruiting, in both internal and external communication, sharing the right message in the right way is one of the pillars of a successful company. Despite its importance, we all bungle communication. It’s estimated that poor communication can cost companies up to $62.4 million dollars a year.
In fact, I’ve seen it firsthand at many companies, including at Zenefits, where I once served as an HR Generalist. (I’m now Head of People for Poggio Labs.) As a team member of one of the fastest-growing SaaS startups in the United States, I can say with authority that the pace, the growth, the excitement could be just as crazy as you might imagine.
But I’ve also learned a lot of lessons along the way. The most important one? The importance of communication in reducing conflict and facilitating growth in your organization. That’s what it all boils down to: communications. If that sounds like a lofty goal, it’s because it is. But it is achievable — if you begin to rid your workplace of the most problematic myths regarding personal communication. When you do this consistently over time, you’ll enhance work relationships across your entire workforce. You also will clear the way for unobstructed growth for both your people and your company.
So, as a business leader or HR professional, what communication myths do you need to look out for, so that you can help your team avoid them?
poor communication can cost companies up to $62.4 million dollars a year.
Alisa’s top 5 workplace communication myths
Internal communication is just as important as external communication. To develop a strong internal communications strategy, we need to dispel some of the myths about internal and external communication. We’ll also identify some of the best practices for effective communication to distribute company information and improve company culture.
Myth 1: “Our internal communication strategy is not as important as our external communication.”
This myth can really trip up even strong companies. The truth is that both internal and external communications are business communications, and they affect how your company is perceived. In other words, they can make or break your company’s reputation. That’s why it is important to focus on both types of communication. Important internal communication strategies are often (but not always) handled by the internal communications department. However, external communication can occur between any employee and anyone else, even after that employee goes home for the day.
Strong internal communication makes for more knowledgeable employees. Conversely, poor internal communication can result in lower employee engagement. That’s why it’s important to frequently share your company’s mission and core value statements. Make sure your employees are always considering those statements when crafting any communication that is about your company. When this is done correctly, it can enhance both your brand image and your company’s reputation.
Myth 2: “Internal business communication is the responsibility of the internal communications department.”
The truth is that the internal communications department is not responsible for all internal communication. The department is responsible for creating the internal communications strategy and for identifying and correcting any workplace communication deficiencies. They are responsible for distributing important information in the right voice at the right time, but they are not responsible for communication interactions between coworkers, employees, and management, or for communications between separate departments. This means that everyone in the company is responsible for the messages that they are putting forth. Thus, they must consider how those messages are received.
Myth 3: “Business time isn’t personal time; our employees won’t engage off the clock.”
This myth stems from the thinking that most employees think of business as business and personal time as personal time. The truth is that the internet has nearly eliminated barriers for business communication outside of working hours. Smart leaders understand this timing and know how to navigate the rough waters of human interaction effectively. HR can also play a role in socializing this concept within an organization so that managers know how to deal with issues and learn to communicate effectively, both inside and outside of normal working hours.
Here are some of my most important takeaways:
- Humans want to connect. The truth is that humans want to connect and engage. Managers receive reports of all types at all hours. The report could be about an issue that needs to be addressed immediately to keep the project on schedule. It also could be a complaint from an employee. Great managers who have a deep understanding of the company’s internal communication strategy, including the company’s policy regarding off-hours communication, can craft a quick message that follows the company’s policies while taking steps to resolve the issue in a timely manner.
- People are more than numbers or “headcount.” It’s easy for us to get caught up in metrics and data points, but if we stop to realize that each “employee number” is a person with a spouse, a sibling, a pet, and so on, we will make better decisions that contribute to organization-wide health.
- Safe workers are more effective. According to one Leaders Eat Last, an amazing book by Simon Sinek, safety is a critical piece of the equation. Workers who don’t have internal fears on the team, group, or organization level can focus on external hurdles to overcome. If you’re proactive about providing effective tactics for managing your staff, you’ll save your business – and your employees – from unnecessary.
Distill your feedback or other HR information in the simplest of terms and find multiple ways of saying it so that the other person understands.
“What you say is what people hear.” You never know exactly how your message will land with someone else. That’s why it’s your responsibility to examine every possible misconception that may arise in a situation before communicating a message. Distill your feedback or other HR information in the simplest of terms and find multiple ways of saying it so that the other person understands. It’s also worth pointing out that saying it once is usually never enough. Whether you’re providing feedback to senior management or supporting staff — or the other way around — be certain to reiterate your message so that you’ve been heard.
Myth 4: “Social media is only good for creating brand awareness and for garnering new clients and customers, not for internal communication.”
This is such a common myth! The truth is that social media has become an integral form of communication for both business and personal use. Many of your employees grew up using social media as their primary form of communication among friends, family, and acquaintances. They might be more comfortable sending a message via one of the various social media apps than talking face-to-face.
Social media can be a quick way to determine how employees feel about the company and to quickly locate problems so that they can be addressed. The trick is to listen – and then to respond effectively – so that employees can have a clear understanding of your response and can see the solution to the problem. Failure to respond can lower employee engagement and can create a toxic work environment that reduces productivity and profitability.
However, using social media correctly can turn your entire workforce into brand advocates and ambassadors of your company’s message.
Myth 5: “Listening is intuitive, easy, and automatic.”
Let’s be clear: there’s listening, and there’s hearing. Listening may be easy; hearing – really taking in what’s being said – can be much more difficult. Try to recall a time when you went to a meeting without a laptop in front of you or a phone in your hand. How often are you filled with distracting thoughts about your own workload and how best to manage it? It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Being present is the trick. Put those technologies and lists down and pay attention!
Sometimes, though, even if you think you are listening, the urge to formulate a brilliant rebuttal or addition to the conversation is always at the forefront of your mind. The result? Frustrating meetings where fragmented ideas are on repeat until time runs out and frustrations boil over.
Here’s how to avoid that. Next time you enter a meeting or engage in internal communications, approach the interaction with an open mind and the thought that you want a clear understanding of the issue, idea, or concept before you respond. Stepping into a group or a one-on-one meeting with the goal of listening – and, really, hearing – more than you speak is likely to result in a greater understanding of the group, improved outcomes, and increased organizational cohesion.
It takes effective internal communications, as well as external communications, to strengthen employees’ ability to meet company goals.
What’s your biggest 2022 HR challenge that you’d like to resolve
Answer to see the results
Your organization requires good communication
As an HR professional, I believe that organizational success and positive business outcomes require communication of critical information and feedback.
Avoid passive listening by being openly present in the moment.
Paraphrase what people say so they know you heard them and so they hear that you heard them correctly.
Understand that you may not ever know the truth in a given situation. Let go of the idea that money, above all else, keeps people at organizations. And let go of the idea that internal and external communications are separate functions. Lastly, remember that there’s no such thing as over-communication.
These are the communication misconceptions that I suggest you abandon, both inside and outside your workplace. When you do so, I predict that you’ll find it much easier to communicate, both internally and externally, and you’ll develop more engaged employees who understand the company’s values and serve the company, both at work and in their personal lives, as brand advocates.