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Employee Comms

7 Factors that Influence Ineffective Communication

By 

 — October 27th, 2021

7 Factors that Influence Ineffective Communication

Communication can often be taken for granted in a workplace environment, and effective communication can be deprioritized in the 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 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.

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.

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Communication in the workplace

Workplace communication is one of the most important aspects of a successful business. These days, communication is much more than conversations in the office. It is about the exchange of information through multiple different mediums.

The four main forms of communication within an organization are:

  • Verbal - face to face interactions, phone calls, video meetings.
  • Non-verbal - body language, gestures, facial expressions.
  • Written - emails, letters, IMs.
  • Visual- training videos, brochures, charts.

When carried out effectively, communication in the workplace has a host of benefits. Among other things it:

  • Increases employee engagement
  • Avoids confusion
  • Provides purpose
  • Fosters a transparent company culture
  • Creates accountability
  • Builds productivity and growth
  • Helps team building
  • Leads to innovation
  • Improves crisis management
  • Increases inter-departmental cooperation
  • Gives everyone a voice
  • Improves public relations
  • Creates better client relationships
  • Builds on existing skills
  • Increases job satisfaction and loyalty

What are the effects of ineffective communication?

Uncertainty

When poor communication exists in the workplace, it will quickly lead to a sense of uncertainty. This lack of predictability and stability will cause an uneasy atmosphere among employees and they will start to question their roles and value at the company. If workers do not clearly understand their objectives for the week or the part they play in a team project, they will start to become ineffective at their job.

Leaders must clearly communicate what is expected of their workers and always keep them in the loop regarding new company policies or changes. This communication and clarity will create a greater sense of trust between both parties and encourage workers to be more engaged and productive each day at work

Conflict

Unnecessary conflict can arise from a lack of communication. If, for example, one party misunderstands or misconstrues the words or actions of another, it has the potential to create unpleasant friction.

Unresolved conflict can impact company culture, employee performance and retention, and an organization’s bottom line.

To avoid this, organizations must create clear communication strategies to resolve workplace conflict (e.g., set expectations, respect personal differences, and use active listening skills.)

Low morale

One of the primary sources of low morale in any workforce is poor communication. When employees experience low morale, it is reflected by mediocre and uninspired work as well as a clear lack of motivation. This could leave them with a sense of guilt, embarrassment or even low self-esteem.

The key to fixing low morale in the workplace is to practice transparency. Employees will respect honesty and be more willing to work together to fix any problems. Managers must also allow employees to communicate their own fears, concerns, and viewpoints, especially with company matters that will impact them personally.

Less Effective Collaboration

Collaboration cannot happen without communication. A team cannot pursue a goal together without exchanging knowledge and ideas first. If they did, it would result in poor teamwork and potentially even conflict amongst employees. Communication allows for collaborative relationships that will lead to successful projects and better outcomes.


How to achieve effective communication

Listen to team members

Those in leadership positions must understand that they don’t have to be the ones doing all the talking. Management should listen actively and seek out ideas and opinions from their workers. An open-door policy is always a good idea in an organization, and is an easy way for all levels of staff to offer their thoughts, ideas, and concerns.

Create a communication friendly space

A communication friendly environment is a space that encourages and promotes good communication. Speaking up should never be something that your employees are afraid to do. Leadership can create a communication friendly office by encouraging interaction and building relationships with employees, and by letting them know they can talk whenever they need.

Ask for feedback

By allowing employees to share concerns or viewpoints regarding certain issues is another method of encouraging communication in the workspace. Offering different formats of providing this feedback can be useful. For example some employees will enjoy chatting face to face to give feedback and others may prefer doing so through email or questionnaires.

Host team-building games

Team building games are not just fun but give employees the chance to communicate with co-workers and management, making them the perfect way to build relationships and bonds in the workplace. When team members have these open lines of communication and trust in one another, team projects will greatly benefit.

Key takeaway 

Poor communication in the workspace results in friction, frustration, and confusion. This creates a tense environment where employees are not motivated to be productive or inspired to collaborate with co-workers.

This low morale will have a knock-on effect and negatively impact how employees relate to clients and potential customers, and ultimately damage the company’s bottom line.


Improving communication at work can be done by implementing the right strategies so that messages can be sent and received accurately and everyone is on the same page at all times.

Apart from the creation of this workplace alignment, having solid communication in place will improve some of the most important KPIs around employee retention, engagement, motivation, and talent attraction. Proper employee communication also helps organizations improve their crisis and change management initiatives.

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