Before we self-destruct: What causes poor communication in the workplace, what are some effects and examples, and how do you deal with it effectively so that your people feel respected, trusted and engaged?
Unproductive stress. Unmet needs. And what it’s costing your company. So many of the daily battles we face are as a result of poor communication in the workplace. But what really causes it?
Over the past few weeks, we’ve looked at employee behaviors at work, and how they can positively and negatively affect your operations. And a lot of those behaviors have to do with a breakdown in communications.
So, just as important as understanding your company culture and investing in help from a change management company, taking a good hard look at how your people communicate can help you streamline your operations immensely. That’s why, in this post, we look at some statistics, examples and effects of poor communication in the workplace. And how to deal with it:
STATISTICS ON WORKPLACE COMMUNICATION
This is actually a very interesting topic at the time of writing because the Covid-19 pandemic forced a lot of people to work remotely, which had a huge impact on workplace communication.
But as early as 2015, this research into cloud communication showed that 97% of employees believe that good communication is vital to their everyday tasks and operations. More research shows that up to 28% of employees cite poor communication in the workplace as the reason for not delivering work on time. And this McKinsey report found that connected teams who communicate well are 20–25% more productive.
In fact, there’s so much research into this topic, we could keep on citing all day. But, as Patricia Buhler and Joel Warden notes in this SHRM book on communication, we’ve known for years that poor communication costs large companies up to $62.4 million per year, and your average 100-employee business around $420 000 per year, yet companies do very little to address the issue effectively. And that’s why we keep seeing destructive behaviors at work.
EXAMPLES & EFFECTS OF POOR COMMUNICATION IN THE WORKPLACE
The impact that poor communication can have on business is well documented, if not self-evident. When communication breaks down between teams, colleagues and management, you have a lot of inefficiencies that crop up:
- Time pressures and increased stress
When communication breaks down, collaboration suffers – and isn’t that the whole point of having a company and not just doing everything yourself? And one of the most notable signs of poor communication in the workplace comes in with prioritisation. When we don’t communicate adequately, employees tend to get the impression that everything on their to-do list is urgent, causing bottlenecks and getting people stuck.
A sure sign of this is a trend of feeling like you’re always understaffed, or maybe even when you realise you’re paying too much overtime. But note that the trend also makes people withdraw, slowing things down even more because they feel less inclined to ask for work clarity.
- Reduced productivity, unhappy clients
UK employment consultants PeepsHR says they found employees can spend up to 20% of their time per day just looking for information about their tasks or finding someone able to help guide them. No wonder productivity suffers. Not least through inefficiencies like duplicate work.
But it’s not just management that’s stressed by missed deadlines and appointments. Your clients will feel it too. See what happens when you have too many customer complaints.
- Unmet needs and expectations
Poor communication almost always results in people not meeting expectations – like missing deadlines, coming late or skipping appointments etc. Get some insights into why employees are late.
But also remember that people join your company for a reason. A communications breakdown often causes rifts between people, meaning individuals might not get the fulfilment they need to really feel at home in their role. Also see the impacts of workplace exclusion.
- Low morale, lack of innovation & high turnover
Although it’s always hard to pinpoint what really made an employee leave your company, exiting employees often cite poor work relationships as a reason to quit. When someone feels ostracised, it’s so much easier to just disengage and leave. See what’s really behind employee withdrawal.
- Arguments and relational breakdowns
All too familiar in most offices. We come from different backgrounds and all have slightly different values. And when communication breaks down, you’re likely to have more confrontation. See why some of us keep having bad meetings.
WHAT CAUSES POOR COMMUNICATION IN THE WORKPLACE?
That’s the million-dollar question. And it’s one that researchers have grappled with for a while because it’s so broad. This construction industry study lists 30 separate possible causes of poor communication. Including language barriers, poor platforms and greed over controlling the project. It’s very broad.
But if you’ll indulge us, it might be possible to simplify this a little bit. If you take into account that humans are, as far as we know, the absolute best communicators on planet Earth – we’re a social species, evolved to live in community and we’re able to communicate even abstract thoughts and ideas. We communicate every day, all day. At home, at work. And we learn to do it from a very young age.
So, what on Earth could break down those inbred skills we seem to be born to use? Well, it’s happening in a specific place. Your office. So, the obvious conclusion is that it’s not the people, it’s the environment. See, when you take a group of people and put them together in a “new” environment, that same inbred community-building nature makes us quickly and spontaneously establish a common culture in that new space. It’s a social group survival tactic.
And, as we always say, if it’s social, it’s cultural. Meaning, it has everything to do with your company culture.
HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH POOR COMMUNICATION IN THE WORKPLACE?
Focus on developing your company culture. See, your workplace is an intentional place of collaboration. Intentional. Meaning you have the right and duty to work with your teams and develop a culture that works for everyone.
People need to feel welcome, valued and trusted. They need to feel free and supported to be creative and productive. That’s how you start building a high-performance culture.
Good news! We are a change management company, and we specialise in helping companies discover, change and develop their Company Culture. We help companies get right down to understand their employees’ behaviors – in meetings, their work and interactions with each other! – and use science-based organizational development to re-energise your people for max growth.
And we WILL SEND a team to your company RIGHT NOW to help find out how to get your people aligned – with no obligation from you! (Just book your assessment below).
Let’s figure out what’s going on, so we can help you get back to high performance.
ABOUT OUR #COMPANYCULTURE PROJECT
The more you look at it, the more of the common, everyday struggles we face inside our companies are related to our organizational cultures. Even the most apparent efficiency and performance obstacles we face come as a result of cultures.
That’s why we’ve tasked our #TeamCompanyCulture to talk directly to the issues we see in our businesses every day. Connect with the team via firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 071 918 3217.
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