Lost in Translation: How Poor Communication Impacts the Workplace
Content Editor at Workvivo
18 Oct 2023
Notifications. Phone calls. Emails. These are all types of communication that we use every day. For large organizations, it’s essential to stay connected among employees and team members. But if your company is dealing with ineffective communication, the results could be dire.
A recent study by Grammarly and the Harris Poll estimates that U.S. businesses lose up to $1.2 trillion every year due to ineffective communication. That’s a serious chunk of revenue – indicating that communication is something you can’t overlook.
Read on to learn how to audit your workplace for poor communication, plus what to do to fix any communication issues you find.
Identifying signs of poor workplace communication
How do you know whether your organization’s communication is up to par? Some symptoms of bad communication, such as fights or disagreements, are highly noticeable. But others – like low employee engagement – may present as more subtle. Here are some telltale signs that your team’s communication might need an overhaul.
Lack of clarity and misunderstandings
If your employees are struggling with lack of clarity around projects or tasks, this may signal poor communication. Everyone has misunderstandings once in a while. But if you’re seeing regular, consistent misunderstandings, something’s not right.
Increased conflicts and tensions
Poor communication naturally leads to more conflict and more tension – and in turn, workplace conflict can lead to decreased productivity, more absenteeism, and even higher rates of turnover. (HR pros cite unsustainable work expectations as one of the biggest causes of turnover.) Fights or passive-aggressiveness can signal workplace tension, which is often caused by bad communication.
Low employee morale and disengagement
Poor communication affects your employees in more ways than you might think. It doesn’t just impact practical, day-to-day projects and tasks – your employees’ morale and even their overall wellbeing can also take a hit.
When employees a) don’t have the information they need to do their job, and b) struggle to connect with their fellow team members, they’re more likely to feel stressed or frustrated. This all too easily leads to disengagement at work.
Missed deadlines on deliverables or other errors
One final sign of subpar communication is missed deadlines. If employees are not communicating well, they may struggle to complete their work correctly – leading them to make errors or deliver projects that fall short of the mark. Consistently missed deadlines or work that’s riddled with errors are a problem.
Causes and factors contributing to poor communication
From poor leadership to a lack of digital communication tools, there are a variety of reasons why you may be experiencing less-than-ideal communication. The good news? With the right know-how, it’s completely possible to overcome these causes of poor communication.
Take a look at some of the top factors that play into poor workplace communication and learn how you can get around these obstacles to help your employees improve.
Inadequate communication channels or tools
Whether your team is remote, hybrid, or completely in-office, having the right communication tools in place is a major factor that helps ensure everybody can communicate well.
Communication tools allow teams to do things like assign tasks, share files, brainstorm ideas, and simply engage in two-way conversations with coworkers. But too many companies are trying to spread themselves thin over email, phone, messaging, and other apps – or, worse, they aren’t thinking about communication tools at all.
The best way to fix this problem is by looking for an all-in-one solution that combines features for project management, knowledge sharing, employee engagement, and more into a single, centralized platform.
Workvivo is a great example, serving as the digital heart of your organization. Workvivo helps improve your team’s communication through features like a personalized activity feed, a chat that integrates with apps you already use, live video streams, and so much more.
Request a demo to see how Workvivo can boost your employee engagement and foster better communication!
Lack of transparency during economic uncertainty
Another cause of poor communication: companies who aren’t transparent with their employees, particularly during times of economic uncertainty. Mistrust breeds mistrust, and if you aren’t honest with your employees, they will be less inclined to be honest with you. Not communicating is not the answer.
Even (especially) if things aren’t going well, make a point to be honest with your employees. Communicate directly with your team on a consistent, regular basis. Explain the thought process behind any decisions you make rather than just laying down the law.
By doing so, you’ll encourage others to be transparent and healthy with their communication, too, improving relations all around.
Poor leadership communication
For many companies, poor leadership communication is an obstacle, causing a trickle-down effect that impacts other team members’ communication, too. As a manager or leader at work, your job is to set an example for everyone else. But many managers struggle with knowing how often to communicate, not listening well, or being too vague.
The best solution for this problem is practice, practice, practice. The more you communicate, the better at communicating you’ll become – and although nobody likes to fail, making mistakes allows you to learn and improve.
Start communicating with your teams more often and keep your finger on the pulse for their feedback (whether direct or indirect). Their attitudes and outcomes will help guide you as you refine your methods and process of communication.
The impact of poor workplace communication on organizations
Poor workplace communication goes beyond a few unanswered emails or unintentional games of Telephone. Your company’s communication has a major impact on your bottom line – and poor communication means poor outcomes, too.
Decreased productivity and delayed deliverables
One of the most obvious ways that insufficient communication hurts your business is through a negative effect on productivity and meeting deadlines. According to a survey by Expert Market, 28% say poor communication is why they couldn’t finish a project on time.
Increased employee turnover and dissatisfaction
If your communication is struggling, your employees are more likely to be dissatisfied with their jobs – even to the point of leaving to find a new position. Employees will feel increasingly frustrated and undervalued if they cannot get the information they need to do their jobs.
Damaged company culture
Poor communication hurts company culture. Communication is an integral way of cementing and living out your culture. And the consequences of weak company culture are grave: employee stress, high turnover rates, and unethical behavior, to name a few.
Reduced teamwork and collaboration
Unsurprisingly, employees will struggle to work together if they don’t communicate well. In short, collaboration is impossible if healthy communication standards are not in place.
Strategies for improving communication in the workplace
Now that you’re aware of the most common communication problems (and the scary places they can lead), it’s time to take action to improve your internal communications. Follow these steps to get started.
1. Establish clear and open communication channels
The best way to help your employees is by making communication easy via clear, open channels. Whether you’re focused on digital platforms like Workvivo, email, video conferencing, or all of the above, clearly tell your employees which channels you want them to use – don’t make them guess. Having the right channels in place (and keeping them open) ensures that information flows freely to and from those who need it.
2. Provide effective feedback and recognition
Employee feedback is a huge part of good communication. When you praise or recognize your employees, they feel valued and engaged. This leads them to be more motivated at work, leaning into their daily tasks.
Implement regular employee recognition via social media shout-outs, trophies and rewards, or surprises like catered lunches (for in-house employees) or restaurant gift cards (for remote or hybrid workers).
3. Encourage transparent and honest communication
The more trust your employees feel in your organization, the more motivated and productive they will be – and as a leader, it’s your job to keep your communication honest and open to help foster those feelings of trust.
You can encourage everyone to be more transparent by having regular meetings where you share inside information that keeps everyone up-to-date and on the same page. Share honestly and openly about company happenings so your employees feel safe enough to do the same.
4. Enhance active listening and empathy skills
Communication isn’t just about talking – it goes two ways. Listening is a huge part of communicating well, and getting better at active listening will transform how you and your employees communicate.
To become a better listener, make eye contact and don’t interrupt the speaker. Use nonverbal cues to show that you’re listening, and pay attention to their cues and body language, too. You can also ask open-ended questions or repeat the speaker’s words to demonstrate that you heard them.
5. Practice clear and concise communication
Shorter is always better – at least when it comes to communication. Teaching yourself to be a concise communicator is a great skill to cultivate. People are much more likely to listen and retain what you have to say.
If possible, preparing in advance can help you be brief. Don’t over-explain yourself; short, direct sentences are best. And be as clear as possible by stating exactly what you want people to do.
6. Put conflict resolution and mediation efforts in place
Despite your best efforts to communicate well, conflict might still pop up. That’s okay! It’s completely natural for a team of people with diverse cultural backgrounds, life experiences, personalities, and opinions to clash once in a while. The key is all in how you respond to one another.
Be willing to address conflict in the open – this is another area where transparency is key. Encourage team members to listen to each other, stepping in as a mediator if they cannot resolve the issue independently. Together, you’ll work toward a solution, getting the work done while respecting everyone’s differences and opinions.
Increase workplace communication with Workvivo
Effective communication skills are key for all employees, from CEOs down to your greenest intern. A lack of communication can derail your work environment, hurting retention, engagement, productivity, and more. That’s why you should focus on a strong employee communication strategy that helps your culture and collaboration through tactics like transparency and active listening.
Having the right tools in place is a crucial method of overcoming communication barriers and adapting your employees’ communication styles, ultimately improving their job satisfaction. Use Workvivo as your digital point of connection, giving your employees a place to share information and collaborate on projects.
With Workvivo, communication is made easy – even for remote work. Want to learn more? Click here to request a demo and see how Workvivo can help your organization transform your comms for the better