Poor workplace communication leads to painful results

Examples of sloppy – or non-existent — communication in the workplace are everywhere. No company is immune. Playing the blame game isn’t a productive way to address and fix the problem.
Middle management has been called the “frozen tundra of communication.” If that describes your company’s workplace communication landscape, it’s time to bring about a thaw. If not, prepare to deal with unpleasant collateral issues.
“Frozen Tundra” damage
When the communication ball gets dropped, there are at least nine bad things that can happen.

  • Relationships in the workplace can be damaged leading to bad feelings between employees.
  • Relationships can also be damaged externally with customers, vendors, neighbors and others who really matter.
  • Lack of communication causes unnecessary and frustrating delays for implementation of decisions or policies.
  • When information is poorly presented, companies must engage in damage control that can be both time-consuming and expensive.
  • Product or service quality that should be very good becomes mediocre when communication lags and this leads to customer dissatisfaction.
  • Morale problems begin to surface because too much time is spent on fixing things that should not have happened.
  • Reputations become damaged — your reputation, your boss’s reputation, your company’s reputation.
  • At the end of the day, the most valuable asset any organization can have — trust — is broken.
  • And, if you’ve had a hand in creating any of those problems, you may well get fired.

Case in point
An example of poor workplace communication that happens every day is failure to set clear expectations for others. Whether it’s the scope of a customer order, a series of deadlines or the parameters of information other team members are counting on you to deliver, agreeing on expectations up-front is essential. If you don’t do that, you and your associates will have expectations that don’t match and that is a one-way ticket to trouble.
There is no more important communication issue than setting expectations and following up to make certain they are met.

  • Project parameters.
  • Budget.
  • Timetable.
  • Responsibilities.
  • Accountability.
  • Expected outcomes.

Ask yourself: Are expectations you set in the work you perform always clear? If not, it is imperative you take immediate steps to fix that because clear communication from management sets the example for the rest of the workforce. A lot may be riding on that.

Davis Young and Scott Juba own Fast Is Good℠ LLC, which offers communication training in 90 minutes or less.
Davis has provided communication training for some of the best known organizations in the country and, in recent years, has taught more than 200 college classes focused on communication.
Scott is an experienced communication trainer. He is a recognized thought leader and consultant on social media and the use of technology to communicate.
Material for this column is based on their book — Avoid Workplace Communication Screw-ups:  They’ll Cost Money and Get You Fired! — published by Smart Business.