Communication problems in the workplace are as common as they are avoidable. Use these 7 suggestions to improve an essential part of your business.
Communication problems in the workplace are common, but they can be avoided. In fact, breaking down communication barriers is one of the most important things you can do for productivity and employee engagement.
Research indicates that businesses lose as much as $37 billion annually from poor communication, and 86% of executives blame workplace failures on a lack of effective collaboration and communication. This makes it of vital importance to solve communication issues promptly and to avoid workplace communication problems in the future.
In this article, we will cover some of the most common workplace communication problems and provide tips to remedy them.
1. Information overload
use a work communication app like Trello, Slack, or Basecamp to post updates directed to specific functional teams in an organized, streamlined way.
Based on quite a bit of employee feedback at many companies over the years, it’s clear that one of the most irritating sources of low productivity and problems with communication in the workplace is email overload. While email is an internal communication essential, it can truly be overwhelming to have to check 50-plus emails first thing in the morning. Suddenly, it’s lunch and all you’ve done is respond to emails — several of which may not have had anything to do with your most pressing responsibilities.
Fortunately, there are many different communication tools and streamlining techniques to lighten the load here. For example, you can create a direct channel of communication (or several internal communication channels) to funnel essential details to your direct reports with information pertinent to their immediate responsibilities. You can separate and prioritize other internal communications that can wait.
For example, create email list groups for functional teams so that only the people who are responsible for certain things get those emails. Or use a work communication app like Trello, Slack, or Basecamp to post updates directed to specific functional teams in an organized, streamlined way. This helps employees save time by seeing what they need to see while not getting bogged down in details that don’t impact their job.
2. Caution: jargon ahead
It’s one thing if you’re communicating with long-time employees who understand your jargon, but if you’re working with cross-functional teams or new hires, steer clear of too many abbreviations and too much jargon. One of the best ways to improve communication is to use simple, direct language that spells things out clearly. Avoid wordiness.
However, a certain amount of jargon can be part of a company’s culture. You could provide new employees with a glossary of commonly-used abbreviations and terms that they will hear on the job. Effective communication depends on being fully understood, and jargon overuse prevents that.
3. No central location for documents
Helping employees help themselves is a great way to boost business performance and avoid decreased morale. If you don’t have a central repository for essential documentation, and separate locations for mission-critical documentation for different departments, employees have to waste time asking about and hunting for information instead of getting the job done. Having a regularly-updated company intranet, or creating a Sharepoint site can remove workplace communication challenges like this.
4. Passive listening
Passive listening is where you just kind of hear what someone is saying, but you don’t really register it because your attention is on something else. It’s one of the most common displays of poor communication skills. Switch this out for active listening skills instead. Active listening is one of the most important communication skills you can learn, both for personal and professional one-on-one conversations. The same principles apply in group settings, too. Active listening is so powerful that it can help you develop healthy relationships at work and at home. Try these measures:
- When talking to someone, put your phone on mute and don’t check texts or take any phone calls during the conversation.
- Give the person eye contact.
- Sit or stand up straight, but lean in just a little.
- Really listen and don’t interrupt.
- Think less about your response and more about understanding.
- Ask clarifying questions and repeat what you think they said to ensure mutual understanding.
- Smile and nod.
- Instead of crossing your arms, tent your fingers.
Nonverbal communication cues and body language techniques not only help improve workplace communication, but also help employees understand and feel you are really registering what they have to say.
Always keep cultural differences in mind, however. If you work across cultures at all, understand that direct eye contact can also be intimidating for some. Cultural awareness is always a great way to create an inclusive, thriving workplace culture overall.
if you work across cultures at all, understand that direct eye contact can also be intimidating for some. Cultural awareness is always a great way to create an inclusive, thriving workplace culture overall.
5. Not providing positive feedback
Everyone likes to hear when they’re doing a good job, so it’s a big communication mistake, in our professional and personal lives, to forget to express gratitude and share feedback for a job well done. Instead, have each employee’s direct manager catch their employees doing a good job and give them frequent positive shout-outs. You can even consider starting group initiatives where everyone is encouraged to notice and call out each other’s positive contributions. It’s a great way to boost employee engagement and even leads to a happier company culture.
6. Leaving people out of the loop
In this new era when remote employees make a larger share of our workforce, you might not see these employees except at the weekly video meeting, even though they’re putting in some great work. It has gotten harder to keep track of who’s doing what, and it’s easy to forget to include everyone. This can be a disaster on many levels. So make sure that you are using the right classical and digital communication methods (email, phone, collaboration apps) to ensure that everyone is connected to the rest of the team.
7. Letting employee feedback drift
Remember that team meeting where you requested employee input? What did you do after you got that input? If nothing has changed and employees continue to struggle, employee engagement and willingness to communicate will decrease, and so will the bottom line. Make being proactive and acting on input in a timely manner part of your organizational communication strategy.
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Learning how to communicate effectively is one of the best things you can do to foster a healthy company culture, boost productivity, and build better employee engagement and job satisfaction. Zenefits can help HR professionals and business leaders create and implement positive communication strategies and turn problems into successes.