7 Factors that influence ineffective communication
— August 17th, 2019
Communication can often be taken for granted in a workplace environment, and effective communication can be deprioritized in our rush to get the message out to employees.
Here are seven ways in which poor communication can become the norm in your workplace.
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Poor workplace culture
One of the main casualties of a toxic work culture is effective communication. Communication simply cannot thrive in a culture where team spirit doesn't exist. Negative comments or lack of participation in meetings, feedback discouraged by management, no effort made to integrate multicultural employees can all lead to a poor work environment where communication simply disappears. Open and transparent communication will only flow in an environment where it is encouraged.
Unclear goals and lack of training
Good communication is about making sure everyone understands their role and what's expected of them. If this isn't in place from the beginning it can create communication issues further down the line. Ineffective communication during the recruitment and onboarding process, coupled with a lack of training for employees can mean that employees are getting their information from the wrong sources or are missing the information entirely. If left unchecked, this situation can become a larger problem where their interpretation of the information is repeated internally and externally and becomes the absolute truth.
Growing numbers of disengaged workers
When employees are engaged they're more productive and communication flows easily between the team. Disengaged workers, on the other hand, often don't get involved in team meetings, they stay silent in one-to-ones with their manager and generally show poor communication.
If allowed to continue, this lack of participation in the conversations and meetings going on around them can trickle through the team and have a negative impact on inter-departmental communications.
Poor management style
Attitude and behavior in the workplace often filter down from the top. That's why the term ‘lead by example’ is so pertinent when discussing communication at work. If a manager is a poor communicator that can have a negative effect on employees and the way they communicate with the manager, with each other and potentially with customers.
Management style has a significant influence on a team. A failure to communicate properly, to encourage and provide feedback, explain specific tasks or how an employee's work fits into the organization as a whole will eventually lead to frustration, apathy, disengagement and a distinct lack of inter-team communication. To encourage good communication in the workplace, a poor manager's approach needs to be flipped on its head, with open and straightforward communication at its heart.
Lack of preparation
If you're delivering critical information to colleagues or employees, take the time to prepare. Ad hoc communication can result in key points being forgotten or played down unintentionally. A lack of preparedness could also mean employees don't take the message seriously. Your casual approach could lead them to think the information itself isn't vital. You need your employees to understand the key takeaways and what their specific action points are, so take the time beforehand to prioritize the message you're delivering into the right order, emphasizing the points you want them to remember.
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Resorting to jargon
Communication is about divulging information and ensuring those you're communicating with understand what you're telling them. Using jargon when communicating with employees can cause confusion or misinterpretation. Some people feel comfortable using jargon, and while that's fine if you're communicating with those familiar with the lingo (between an IT department or with healthcare colleagues, for example), most people will respond better to plain language.
Managers or communicators shouldn't assume that people understand specific terminology, a point that was made clear in a study by King's College London, which showed that patients often don't understand what they're being told by doctors, leading to serious issues down the line.
Over-reliance on digital communication
The workplace has become increasingly flexible, with a growing number of remote workers. Communicating with a remote workforce can be a challenge and if not handled correctly can lead to a breakdown in communication altogether. With a remote team, there's the danger that communication can move completely to the digital realm – text messages, email, DMs, chat in Slack – but digital communication can leave room for misinterpretation of tone and ultimately the message. It's important, with a remote workforce, to take the time to have person-to-person conversations, and because a large part of communication relies on non-verbal cues, video conferencing should be a priority.