Effective communication is the building block of every great organization. How a business communicates internally and externally directly represents the company as a whole, including its reputation.
When left unchecked, ongoing communication issues in the workplace can potentially increase turnover and cut into profits. Moreover, employees who lack proper avenues for healthy workplace interaction end up feeling disengaged, undervalued and unlikely to go above and beyond for the organization. Here are some solutions to common communication problems that occur in the workplace.
1. Mixing Work and Personal Communications
The problem: Some staff members tend to mix their personal lives into workplace communications. This detracts from professionalism in the office and sometimes leads to gossip. It could result in decreased morale or even accusations of harassment.
The solution: Transparent leadership is key for stopping gossip in its tracks. Emphasize the need for confidentiality in the workplace and hold sensitive meetings behind closed doors.
2. Email Overload
The problem: In addition to internal meetings, phone calls and text messages, the average professional receives about 120 new emails each day. This communication overload may result in important information being lost, deleted, forgotten or ignored. Sorting through multitudes of emails each day may also negatively impact productivity.
The solution: It’s vital to know which information actually needs to be shared — as well as when and where it needs to go — and to filter it accordingly. Complex issues are better addressed face-to-face or on a phone call.
3. Making Assumptions
The problem: Assuming someone else is going to pick up the slack on a project without verifying individual roles may cause you to drop the ball. This can result in blame and missed deadlines.
The solution: In any group dynamic, there needs to be a point person to set and clarify roles during the beginning stages of a project. A group email that clarifies who is completing which task and when might help streamline group initiatives.
4. Passive Listening
The problem: Sharing information is only part of the communications process. Strong listening skills are essential too. Passive listening means hearing what another person has to say without truly understanding or empathizing. When an employee fails to listen, he or she won’t comprehend the message that is being relayed, which can lead to misunderstandings or friction.
The solution: Be sure to stress the importance of active listening among employees, especially before starting a meeting or discussion. Inform staff members that passive listening might prevent them from learning about the different views and ideas that are present in the workplace.
5. Poorly Written Communication
The problem: Staff members may opt for a variety of communication tools to interact with colleagues, such as memos and emails. However, if messages are poorly written, they might cause misunderstandings or frustration among teams.
The solution: Employees should always proofread their copy before pressing Send. It’s also important to check the tone of the message to ensure the recipient won’t misconstrue its intent.
6. Incomplete Answers
The problem: In today’s fast-paced world, there’s an impulse to provide quick, definitive answers to questions. Many people respond with a yes or no without fully addressing the scope of the inquiry. This may lead to confusion and wasted time on follow-ups.
The solution: Employees should take the time to answer questions completely and review messages before sending them to make certain all points are addressed.
Effective communication allows the entire workforce to stay in the loop with company changes, information, news and events, while allowing staff members to collaborate, offer feedback and feel empowered. For more information about workplace communication problems and ideas on how to solve them, see the accompanying infographic.
Contributed by guest author Jim McCanney, who is Editor-in-Chief of Institute of Business Publications, a fast-growing publisher of business-to-business newsletters for professionals who need a finger on the pulse of their industries. He has more than 40 years of experience in the industry and focuses on writing about worker safety.