By Joe Gagliardi
Effective communication in the workplace has always been a tenet of a dynamic leadership team. However, too often this commitment to effective communication gets lost in the hustle and bustle of day-to-day business. Then you layer on a once in a 100-year pandemic where communication is even more critical, yet it gets subjugated to making changes to allow the business to survive.
In our quest to navigate the pandemic, effective workplace communication suffered as we had half our team work from home while the other half worked from the office (we are considered an essential service). The dichotomy of two teams added a layer of complexity otherwise never considered.
Some Detrimental Effects of Poor Workplace Communication:
Misunderstanding / Mistrust
A lack of effective communication can lead to misunderstanding and a lack of trust with team members. In a pandemic where regular routines are disrupted and clear effective communication is foregone, employees will fill the gap with “worst case scenarios”. This lack of consistent effective communication can build momentum where the misinformation takes on a life of its own.
When effective communication is absent in an organization, internal and external opportunities are not capitalized on or even considered. Internal efficiency opportunities are missed out as a silo effect takes place. Individuals who lack guidance may create their own “standard operating procedure” (SOP); they feel they are left on their own to make decisions themselves without the guidance of leadership. Externally, suboptimal communication leads to unrealized growth opportunities or potential risk of existing business. For example, if an external sales representative knows of a vendor having financial issues and does not think to communicate this to the accounting team, the organization has a financial risk of a bad debt.
Poor Corporate Culture
A pillar of a good corporate culture is effective communication. Employees that experience ineffective communication do not fully engage in an “all in” approach with the organization. They have a tempered/lukewarm commitment and are not fully invested in the vision and direction of the company. This tempered approach hampers organizations to realize their full potential and ultimately experience higher turnover as everybody is not on the same page with expectations. The values of the organization are not seen as being lived by all.
The above pitfall of ineffective communication can have severe ramifications on an organization’s well-being; therefore, what can you do to keep communication strong and at the forefront of business interaction?
Techniques Organizations Can Consider to Improve Workplace Communication:
“Over Communicating” is Okay & Know Your Audience
Too often we see over communicating as a sign we do not trust the recipient, that they understand what is expected of them or they are being talked down to. Assess your audience, if one person needs a message repeated a couple different ways for them to fully synthesize the message, do so. If others are just waiting for you to finish and are more interested in what they have to say next, you can ask them to summarize the conversation once they have finished getting what was on their mind, communicated. Early on, preface your interaction with the importance of a clear understanding by all participants and consistently make it part of your communications style; the positive gains will soon outweigh any negative connotations. Learn each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
Schedule Meetings to Reset
Set specific times with people in your organization, preferably one on one to ensure clear communication is happening. These meetings should be an open forum where the goal is to ensure the other is being heard. By setting up a recurring meeting to touch base, you will learn more about the inner workings of what is going on in the organization and have a better idea on how to iron out the kinks. Seek feedback where you could improve, this will show vulnerability and reinforce your commitment to improved communication. At these meetings, a commitment to clear communication should be addressed as well as refocusing the values of the organization.
Listen More, Talk Less
When you talk, you are basically imbuing your knowledge onto the other party, when you listen you are learning. Obviously, both are important; however, an active listener will gain great value from what colleagues have to say, especially if the colleague’s perspective addresses a blind spot in your understanding of a situation.
Effective workplace communication fortifies an organization’s culture. Strong communication is a cornerstone of an organization’s values. Through strong communication, everyone in the organization will be on the same page to ensure the core values of the organization are shared to achieve the organization’s longer-term strategic goals.