Poor Communication: What It Does and How to Fix It

When communication doesn’t work, nothing works. And wherever there are people, communication can get complicated. What causes these problems? What is poor communication going to do to your business? How do you fix these problems?

Causes of Communication Problems

An article from ConnecTeam.com gives the top ten reasons why poor communication happens:

  • Communication barriers, such as working in different places (in-office/remote), scheduling conflicts, people using different communication platforms, and language difficulties
  • Unclear lines of communication, meaning that employees don’t know who is in charge of what, or where to look when problems need solving.
  • Assuming understanding. Sometimes management gives instructions on a task or project and assumes everybody is on-board, closing the door to questions and making themselves unapproachable.
  • Using the wrong communication tools. Communication can happen via email, chat, phone calls, IM, text, and more. Sometimes there are so many tools that important messages simply get lost.
  • Giving and receiving feedback is also imperative to good communication. It creates trust and keeps an open, revolving door for issues and improvement to be addressed. Without it, none of that will happen.
  • A lack of follow-up. Maybe it isn’t clear who is supposed to check and make sure things are going well, or maybe they (or you) simply aren’t doing it.
  • Not measuring communication. In order to figure out what the real errors are within internal communications, you have to collect data on your communication, so you know what works, what doesn’t, and why.
  • Budget issues. Maybe your company can’t afford to create accounts in Microsoft suite right now and creating your own communication platform isn’t realistic. And really, that’s fair. But there are other options!

Consequences of Communication Problems

The potential fallout from a lack of communication is theoretically endless, but some short articles from Simpplr and Field Service Direct give us a handful of the most common side effects.

  • Decreased productivity
  • Less effective collaboration
  • An unpredictable work environment
  • Workplace conflict
  • Low morale
  • Increased employee turnover
  • Poor customer service

Notice how each item in the list above can cause the next. Decreased productivity is an obvious result, but where can that lead? Communication can make or break much more in a company than one might think.

Solutions to Communication Problems

There are hundreds of potential ways to start improving workplace communication, but here are a few that apply directly to the causes and consequences listed above, with help from Indeed and FSD. Of course, this list isn’t comprehensive and there are nearly endless possible outcomes, but here are some great places to start.

  • Develop an open-door policy. When people feel intimidated, they aren’t going to talk to you. Do your best to remain approachable always.
  • Make resources and tools accessible. Employees should know who to contact, which tools to use, and how to go about doing those things when an issue arises. Having all of this written down and available will save time, money, and peace of mind.
  • Follow a formal process. Like the resources for who to talk to, there should also be a clear company hierarchy so that people can ask for help when communication doesn’t work, despite your best efforts.
  • Use employee input. Figure out what works best for most people and run with it. Maybe the free software you’re using is keeping your company from being efficient, so something better is worth the investment. At the same time, maybe the fancy software you’ve been paying for doesn’t actually work that well, so you can save money and improve communication. Either way, ask people what works and what doesn’t, and let that inform your plan to improve things.
  • Share data with employees. If employees have a line of sight to see how their differing communication techniques help or hurt bottom-line performance, they are more likely to move to something more efficient and expect the same from others.

Hopefully, this gets you thinking about how to improve communication in your own company. If it all feels too big, reach out to CLS and we’ll help you make a plan and get started.

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