Ask anyone what the most important thing in a relationship is and they will probably tell you communication. This goes for any type of relationship: romantic, friendship, familial, or work. Communication is defined by Google Dictionary as:
- the imparting or exchanging of information or news
- means of connection between people or places, in particular.
Communication is definitely a buzzword when it comes to the workplace. We want good communication amongst employees, between bosses and employees, with customers, and with any contractors. Based on the definition above, it seems like a pretty simple concept, but as we all know, it’s an area that is lacking in most business places. Why is it so important to have good communication in your business? And, what does that look like?
True story: One employee from the IT department has decided that today is a good day to look over the projector equipment in the conference room. He has scheduled his day around the task, but when he gets there, he is told that there will be a meeting in the conference room starting in 10 minutes. Now, the IT person can’t do the work he planned on doing, and the people holding the meeting don’t have a functional projector. This is a problem for both parties that could have been cleared up if the meeting schedule had been shared with the IT department. What’s worse is that the IT person walked away from the situation grumbling about how his day was wasted because nobody told him about the meeting, and the people at the meeting were angry that the projector equipment was broken thereby disrupting their meeting. This created discord between employees and a less pleasant work atmosphere.
Things like this happen in businesses everywhere almost daily. Without good communication you waste people’s time, their effort, and you create friction amongst employees. Jesse Gomez, for LinkedIn, explains that bad communication in a workplace can lead to “an increase of bad attitudes,” “lack of teamwork,” “increase of turnover rates,” and “gossip.”
There are two main types of communication within a workplace. The first is communication that shares specific important information. Examples of this could be notices about a company wide meeting, policy changes, performance reviews, job descriptions, information about a project or client, or any details about the product or service being sold to a customer. The second type of communication is the kind that fosters friendships and team building amongst staff. This is often more personal in nature, but it is still important as a way to create an atmosphere that promotes creativity, hard work, and loyalty.
So, what makes communication “good” vs. “bad?” Lisa Nielsen writes, “Good communication means the intended message you send is received by your audience without any distortions in meaning…. The key here is clarity.”
As George Bernard Shaw says, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
There isn’t necessarily one singular problem or solution for bad communication in many businesses. These “distortions in meaning” could be a result of a variety of factors. Some common complaints about communication in the workplace include:
Overuse of email
We receive 120 to 150 emails per day according to business consultant, Phil Simon. Taking the time and energy to sort through all of those is problem enough, but the other problems come in when emails are sent to large groups of people and the “reply all” button is hit one too many times. Suddenly, your inbox is clogged with everyone’s soft drink preferences after an email was sent out regarding a company lunch being planned. It is easy for things to fall through the cracks when email is used as the primary source of communication.
Not listening to voicemails or opening emails fast enough
When people learn about things happening too late, it creates problems. Lack of timeliness is not just the information provider’s fault, it can come from the recipient as well.
Little to no contact with people working offsite
Working remotely is on the rise, but in order for it to work, business need to work extra hard at keeping those remote employees in the loop. Sometimes crucial information is passed along via a hallway conversation, and when a remote employee isn’t there to be on the receiving end, there is a communication failure.
Assuming people will just ‘figure it out’
Yes, we learn a lot by observing and most of us can figure some things out, but that shouldn’t be your company’s communication plan. ‘Figuring it out’ leaves a lot of room for error and confusion. Plus, when employees aren’t exactly clear about what is going on, it is not a comfortable work environment.
Just as there is not one way to have bad communication, good communication can also take many forms. For example, emails can be great for sending out company wide notices and announcements. One-on-one conversations and meetings are ideal for instances when the communication may be more sensitive and specific.
There are also a wide number of apps and tools available for inter office communication such as Slack, HipChat, Basecamp, Google Hangouts, and Twitter hashtags. See this article and this article for more detail.
The main thing is making sure that everyone is on the same page and is as informed as possible in whatever way works for your company.
Interested in learning other ways to help your company? Contact Lucid Advisory and Finance!