Communication is key! We’ve heard that numerous times throughout our lives regarding the relationships we have. Did you know that the same rule applies to the workplace as well?
Just like in a relationship, too many miscommunications cause unhappiness and could even result in someone deciding to break up completely. We can assume that the opposite is also true. In fact, good communication in the workplace among employees is so effective that it can increase retention rates significantly.
Similar to bad communication in your personal relationships, bad communication in the workplace could make everything fall apart. Here are 3 of the ways bad communication can harm a workplace:
1. The Telephone Game
Have you ever played the game Telephone? A simple statement like, “I like apples” can lead to something completely different and absurd like, “She got arrested for stealing apples at the grocery store during her lunch break” after being passed through multiple people. Without properly addressing bad communication, things can escalate quickly into a bad situation!
For example, an employee might overhear their boss discussing someone’s job being on the line. That little piece of information can lead to the employee panicking that they might be next, which could lead to rumors of the company having a major downsize, which could then lead to a major outbreak of hysteria and panic! All of a sudden, people are finding new jobs left and right to save themselves from being fired! All this chaos came from a tiny snippet of conversation that was overheard.
2. Decline in Productivity
Imagine another scenario where you jump into a cab and give the cab driver some unclear instructions on where you need to go. Instead of asking you questions to better understand what you want, he just starts driving. The next thing you know, you’re one city over with a huge fare you need to pay! You could blame it on the cab driver, but at the end of the day, both sides are at fault. You didn’t properly communicate what you wanted and he didn’t properly communicate his questions to you.
Without proper communication, one can never get to where they want to go in one piece. Projects will come back less than perfect from both employees and management having bad communication with each other. Your office productivity will improve as you clarify expectations and set standards to measure productivity.
3. No Team Coordination
Working in teams can be one of the most efficient ways to get work done in the workplace. Imagine if your favorite sports team had no communication on what their assigned jobs are. What if everyone did whatever they wanted? What if everyone wanted to be a quarterback? Could they get the job done, or would it be a giant fiasco?
Teamwork makes the dream work. Without properly communicating what everyone’s assigned responsibilities are, many important key factors may be ignored and certain tasks could overlap each other. This could lead to resentment between employees and a failed project.
Now that you have seen what poor communication can do the workplace here are 3 positive things that will come out of good communication:
1. Everyone Gets Along
As I said before, good communication is the key to a healthy relationship. Good communication between both employees and employers fosters a harmonious work environment. Happy people=a productive work environment. Animosity created through gossip or misinterpreted communication can seriously harm the culture of a workplace. When everyone gets along the sense of teamwork and everyone working towards the common goal (success) of the company sets the tone for that company’s culture.
In addition to good relationships with co-workers, employees will feel more appreciated. Receiving positive feedback lets that employee feel valued. Imagine a boss constantly berating you about what you can do better. Doesn't sound fun, does it? Now imagine a boss that tells you what you are doing that’s good and telling you how you can elaborate on that to make it better. Which scenario sounds more ideal? The answer should be obvious!
2. Idea Sharing
Effective communication allows employees to feel more comfortable about approaching leadership with problems and ideas. When there is a comfortable channel of communication, employees will feel at ease to discuss any concerns they have. By doing so they might not feel like the only option they have is to find another job. Being able to share ideas, employees will feel like they are contributing and they are an asset to the company, as opposed to another “pawn” in the scheme of things.
Having this open channel between employees and managers can lead to great things happening for your company. Participative leadership theories suggest that when leaders encourage participation and contribution from group members, members feel more relevant and committed to the decision-making process and are more willing to give good input to grow the company.
3. Spreading The Wealth
Would you recommend a restaurant with bad food or really good food to a friend? Hopefully, for your friends, the answer would be the latter! When employees are happy where they work, they are more likely to participate in employee engagement by recommending the company to their network, opening up a wider pool of talent for recruiting. Many potential hires will often do research on a company before committing to the job. Websites like Glassdoor allow people considering employment at a company to look at reviews from current and past employees.
According to a Glassdoor survey conducted September 2013, "46% of Glassdoor members are reading reviews when they have just started their job search and have not yet spoken with a company recruiting or hiring manager." With numbers that high, positive reviews from existing employees can make a huge difference! Positive reviews can create an attractive brand for the company and open the door to hiring great talent.
How to encourage effective communication
Now that we understand that effective communication is key to a successful company, how does a company implement positive communication into its culture? According to an article by Deloitte University, “While 90% of executives understand the importance of employee engagement, fewer than 50% understand how to address this issue.”
Just like in our personal lives, although it is understood that good communication keeps our relationships healthy, we might not have those skills. Luckily, this skillset is something that can be learned. Here are 5 ways to improve your communciation skills:
1. Written Communication
Many people might interpret effective communication skills as the conversations one might have with another. However, a huge communication method we use in the workplace is through emails.
Remember to keep the tone of your emails professional. If there is something important that needs to be discussed, a one on one meeting or a video call might be more effective. As many of us might be aware, text messages can and often are interpreted wrongly. The same goes for emails in the workplace.
2. Lead by example
The best way to foster effective communication is to start with leadership. If employees see management bad-mouthing others or speaking inappropriately, they might not be inclined to speak with them about concerns they may have, which could lead them to find employment elsewhere where they might feel more comfortable.
On the other hand, if you have a manager who is willing to listen, work with employees to establish career pathways in the company, and who takes a personal interest in the employee’s life, employees will be more likely to take the initiative when reaching out and communicating. This not only increases retention but also prevents unexpected exits from the company.
3. Take emotions out
While it may be easy to vent your frustration out on your coworker, it might not be the best thing to do! If someone makes a mistake or does something you might not agree, don’t take it as a personal attack, and definitely don’t bad mouth them to someone else. Instead, approach the person in private and ask them for clarification.
Try to give them the benefit of a doubt and wait until you talk to them before getting riled up. If this is something you can’t do alone, then it might be beneficial to involve someone in HR into the process to facilitate good communication and have a neutral third-party.
As simple as that may sound, listening is sometimes the hardest thing to do. Be open to ideas and feedback from other people. Being able to listen to an employee’s concerns or ideas will make them feel more comfortable in their work environment, and could lead to improving the relationship and establishing employee loyalty.
One experience I had with a manager was right around the time I was getting married and planning my wedding. After a meeting I had with her, she asked me “hey, you seem a little distracted, is everything ok?” Because we’d built up a good mentoring relationship, I felt comfortable telling her I was a little stressed with wedding plans. She listened, gave me suggestions on how I could juggle my tasks and improve my performance, and even ended up helping design my wedding invites! I will always appreciate the time she took to listen to my concerns.
5. Training and Development plans
Encouraging effective communication throughout the workplace can be done in numerous ways as listed above. Implementing a communication skills training into the workplace is an effective way to integrate that skill set into the company’s culture. This type of training can be integrated with other technical and soft skills training setup through your company.
A good way to help with transparency is to start a Development Plan with your employee. In summary, these plans will clarify goals and expectations as well as plan the pathway your employee will take to develop their skills and talents within your company. It’s a great way to instigate good communication and provide your employees access to resources you have available to them.
As passé as communication might sound, it is absolutely vital to a company’s success. With a solid foundation of communication, you will establish a great company culture and work environment that will promote growth and happiness in your workers. After all, what good would a company be with unhappy employees… or worse, no employees. Find out more ways to build an uplifting company culture on ProSky’s Talking Talent blog.
Isabella Ang is a content marketing specialist at ProSky, a company that gives you the ability to innovatively evaluate candidates and develop employees through succession pathways, so you can recruit, hire, and retain the best diverse talent & culture fit. When she's not working on her next or ongoing projects for ProSky; she spends her days rock climbing, practicing yoga, completing her degree in Computer Science, and tutoring writing skills.