How we communicate with others in the workplace can have a big impact on the success of what we do, how we feel about the company we work for and how others perceive us.
Effective communication makes it easier to manage teams, set goals, track progress, solve problems and encourage innovation. The communication skills of everyone within an organisation matter — from senior management through to individual team members.
Although we communicate at work every day, we rarely stop to think about whether it is effective or how to change the way we share information if it isn’t working.
We all know that clear and open communication is essential for any business to thrive and work effectively. However, in most organisations, it’s easy to fall into a pattern of communication that is less than optimal.
Communication breakdown is a common problem for businesses. Here are five types of communication failures that you may encounter at work.
One of the main reasons why communication fails is that it becomes overwhelming. For many employees, there are simply too many messages relayed through too many channels.
Consider one of the main culprits of overwhelming communication: the email. It’s a communication channel that can be used effectively, but it’s easy to get into the habit of sending an email instead of speaking to someone or making phone calls. It can be difficult to convey the right tone and context in an email, so it can often lead to a long email thread without a resolution.
As well as email, another ineffective communication method is meetings. Most employees and managers have a diary filled with commitments, tasks and meetings — some of which are unnecessary. Poorly planned meetings, discussions without a purpose and too many meetings all contribute to feeling overwhelmed by communication. To avoid this, set a clear agenda, review it at the beginning of the meeting and don't stray from it.
On the other side of the spectrum, inconsistency is also a source of communication problems.
When teams come to expect a monthly meeting or a weekly bulletin email, it can be confusing and demotivating if these suddenly change without warning. Communication can also be inconsistent from one manager to a number of employees, prompting individuals to feel as though their contributions or suggestions aren’t as valued as those of others.
In contrast to organisations where there’s an overwhelming amount of communication, in some there’s not enough. A lack of clear, open and regular communication can lead to difficulties in teams understanding your core values, achieving progress and contributing their opinions and ideas.
Even when communication is consistent, it can fall into the trap of being unclear or inarticulate. This often happens when there is not a clear and unified direction from management, leading to different interpretations and conflicting priorities.
Communication can be unclear in a number of ways. One of the most common is sending reactive, unplanned messages, instead of planning what to say and structuring it in a way that’s easy to understand and communicates all points accurately.
Another failure is not including enough detail. This can be especially important when talking about projects where details and data are critical to following progress.
A third example of unclear messaging is not knowing the audience or not selecting the right audience based on who needs to know what.
And yet another major source of communication failure in business is the use of unnecessary technical jargon. Confusing language and unapproachable acronyms make it hard for employees to have a clear understanding of the whole message. Businesses that keep language simple will find it much easier to communicate effectively with employees and the wider community.
When we hear the word ‘communication’ we usually think about what’s being said or the manner in which the message is delivered, but the act of listening is equally important.
Many people struggle to actively listen and digest the information that someone else has provided. This can lead to difficulty in following a conversation or keeping up with progress on a project.
In organisations where there’s too much one-way communication or there’s an aversion to feedback, employees can feel as though their contributions aren’t welcome or won’t be heard.
In some cases, there’s an unwillingness to let others speak or engage in a discussion. Where there is too much talking and not enough listening, this can lead to heated moments or difficulty in achieving compromise. For communication to succeed, listening must play an important role.
Finally, one of the major causes of communication failure within an organisation is a lack of trust. While trust can take a long time to build in a business, it can be easily broken and difficult to repair.
Employees may have a lack of trust within a business for several reasons. This could be due to being let down in the past by promises which have yet to be fulfilled — for example a Q&A session with the CEO that never materialised. Team members may also feel distanced from management or other teams due to a lack of transparency, especially if they have taken an interest in company culture or a specific project that was met with silence.
Another source of these connection pitfalls is believing that someone has an ulterior motive or that their attempts at communicating are not genuine. In every organisation, there will be employees who are not ‘team players’ and don’t have the company’s best interests at heart, and this often comes through in the way they communicate with others.
If you feel as though your organisation would benefit from clearer, more effective communication then a great way to achieve this is by introducing a team chat app.
Software designed to aid with communication and productivity can have a powerful impact on the way that teams share information and provide updates on their progress. This in turn creates a positive environment for communication, which will help you reach other business goals and objectives relating to people management, company culture and even financial progress.
Here are three ways that team chat apps can help you to avoid communication failure at work.
Especially for teams that work remotely, it's important to have a virtual 'teamwork desk' where team members can collaborate and communicate. Through text, audio calls and video calls, teams can provide updates on the status of project tasks and goals, plus talk about how they can help one another reach the end goals.
When teams work in groups to accomplish goals, they need a dedicated space to communicate, upload files and share information through text messages, video chat and screen sharing. Smart companies use team software that allows users to create channels for specific purposes — similar to a chat room.
This allows team members to communicate and collaborate about specific projects without the rest of the organisation needing to be disrupted by chat messages that don't have anything to do with their work. New employees can also be added to the specific chat channels they need to be involved in, and they can usually scroll through the past messages to get a clear history of the project.
Today's business world moves fast and everyone is always on the go. Most team collaboration programmes have mobile apps for iOS and Android that help your whole team collaborate no matter where they are.
Let's imagine a senior executive is on his way to a critical business presentation and is running late from the airport. A key piece of information needed for the presentation has changed. He shouldn't have to check his email a moment before the presentation starts to get the information.
With a good team chat app, he or she will have that information at their fingertips in real time with a notification from the mobile chat app.
Many companies use teamwork chat apps for more than just managing business chats. Team members can foster robust team communication and create channels for social purposes.
Create a channel such as 'work' for general announcements and 'play' for social conversations.
Just make sure that any social groups are optional and easy to search for. Employees should know they have the option to participate in any social groups and they don't need to keep their notifications on.
Other ideas for social chat channels can be based on common interests, such as pets, book clubs, happy hour, hiking, dining, or sports. It's a great way to foster rapport on large teams.
In our modern business world, teams often have to stay highly connected across different time zones and locations. Team chat apps aren't just for communicating information anymore. They have also become a productivity tool that helps team members streamline their work and optimise their business processes.
No matter which apps your organisation chooses to implement, make sure you limit the number of applications you use to avoid confusion and miscommunication. Ideally, an organisation should adopt one to three applications (depending on the size of the organisation) to streamline the process.
Finally, make sure every employee has the proper training on the teamwork chat apps they’re expected to use. Even if the app has the best features, it's pointless if your teams don't know how to use these new features effectively. Offer training when a new team chat app is introduced to the company and refresher courses when moving to a different version so that every employee can get the most out of the tools your company uses.
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