How Poor Communication Impacts the Workplace

Posted on July 17th, 2018 by David Lewis

Poor communication is having a tremendous impact on the workplace. This according to the “Communication barriers in the modern workplace” study recently released by The Economist Intelligence Unit and sponsored by Lucidchart.

According to the study, “unclear instructions from superiors, pointless meetings and other stressors can snowball into larger issues with widespread impacts on the business.”

Respondents say poor communication is leading to:

  • delay or failure to complete projects (44%)
  • low morale (31%)
  • missed performance goals (25%)
  • increased stress (52%)
  • lost sales (18%)—some worth hundreds of thousands of dollars

Poor communication is like a virus – it starts small and multiplies, eventually spreading and infecting the entire organization’s financial health.

To address poor communication, companies must understand the root causes. The three most frequently cited causes of poor communication, according to the study:

1) Different communication styles (42%)

According to the study, nearly a third of millennials (31%) say they use instant messaging at work every day, compared with only 12% of baby boomers. The problem with using technology to communicate is it creates more opportunities for miscommunication or failed communication. As we highlight in The Bullseye Principle, email or texting removes body language and vocal dynamics from the communication equation, further reducing the odds your audience will receive your message, as intended. That’s because written messages don’t convey traditional intention cues such as facial expressions and vocal tone. That assumes your recipient reads the email. One study found 60 percent of people who receive an email read only 50 percent of the message.

The solution: communicate emotional messages in person.

2) Unclear responsibilities (34%)

Not knowing what to do or who is responsible for what causes stress. The most common place this happens? Meetings. According to a study, middle managers spend up to 35 percent of their time in meetings and senior level executives spend up to 50 percent. Most of these meetings are unproductive. When asked if workers leave meetings with a clear understanding of the next action item, 46 percent of participants answered: “some of the time,” “rarely,” or “never.” Not exactly an encouraging response.

The solution: reduce the number of people in your meetings (eight or less is optimal) and create a system of accountability and define specific, measureable, time-based next steps for attendees. Delegate tasks and get confirmation that attendees can and will deliver.

3) Time pressures (31%)

Time pressures create stress because most aren’t equipped to deal it. When emotions are high, it becomes difficult to think clearly. We shift into “fight” mode and our defenses go up. When this happens, our brains get overloaded and we react emotionally before the rational part of our brain has had a chance to consider the words we just spit out.

The solution: practice mindfulness. Mindfulness reduces stress, improves memory and helps regulate fear or anxiety. To control of a moment where you feel overwhelmed, follow a simple process we call Stop-Breathe-Look-Listen. When you start to feel rushed or anxious, acknowledge your feelings and accept they are valid. Stop whatever task you are doing and focus entirely on your breath. Inhale through your nose for five seconds and then exhale through your mouth for five. Look. Notice everything you see and hear from the buzz of the air conditioner to the trash in the wastebasket. If you feel your attention start to drift or distractions start to pull you away from your present moment, put your focus back on your breath and let it ground you.

Communication between workers and bosses has a direct influence on the level of productivity and job satisfaction seen within an organization. Poor communication can lead to lack of team cohesion, unclear messaging, wasted time and resources, damaged relationships, low employee morale, higher turnover rates, lost revenue and even injury or death.

Contact us to learn how we can help you address poor communication in the workplace.

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