The problems that poor communication can create are often not realized until after the problems occur when business and the bottom line suffers, and yet they could have been prevented. Here are 4 main problems that come with poor communication:
1. A lack of knowing leads to negativity
When people don’t have the information or knowledge they feel they need, low productivity results. The reason is pretty basic—people tend to avoid situations in which they will be seen as not knowing, not understanding or not having expertise. No one wants to look like they don’t know what to do. And just about everyone has a fear—whether based in reality or not—of being embarrassed or mocked.
Think back to school. From early on through grad school, how many times did you hear teachers and professors say, “There’s no such thing as a dumb question?” They knew someone had a question—a very good question that would help shed new light on the conversation—that they were simply too afraid to ask.
2. Employee mistrust, absenteeism and low morale
Employees want to be engaged so they feel connected to the organization. When they are, they are willing to work harder, smarter, and be active in the workplace in ways that drive business results. When they aren’t engaged, when they don’t feel connected, they suffer. This might seem like a touchy-feely, soft business issue, but unhappy and disconnected employees can have a profound effect on business through absenteeism, lack of motivation, and turnover.Unhappy, disconnected #employees can have a profound effect on #business through absenteeism, lack of motivation & turnover.
3. Bad interpersonal relationships
How often do you see eyes roll? How much muttering do you quietly hear? When people don’t feel connected to each other, it opens up the door for misinterpretation, and for questioning motives and intent. The lack of feeling respected or listened to—truly listened to—leads people to feel negated. When that happens, they often find ways to “push back,” even when they can’t do it openly or directly.
4. The “Grapevine Effect”
Marvin Gaye isn’t the only one who’s heard it through the grapevine. No matter how much you might love his Motown hit, you don’t want one of these growing in your organization. Yet, by not sharing information, you are ensuring a grapevine will sprout—causing problems and distractions. People want what they can’t have, and they naturally assume there is something to be had if they’re not shown differently. If you aren’t talking proactively about issues that are important to your employees, chances are that someone else is—regardless of the accuracy and truthfulness of their “information.”
As the Prince of Soul serenades, “I bet you’re wondering how I knew, about your plans to make me blue. It took me by surprise I must say, when I found out yesterday. Don’t you know that I heard it through the grapevine…”
Something will be shared by someone, it just won’t be what you would say. Perhaps it won’t even be correct.
So if there are all these downsides, why aren’t we communicating better?
It’s not as if management comes to work each day saying, “I want to withhold information.” Likewise, employees don’t say, “I want to screw something up!” So, what’s at play? In many cases, it starts with our beliefs about communication that get in the way. Holding us back from greatness are beliefs and fear.
- We believe we are born good at communicating and therefore don’t practice and don’t get better
- We’re afraid of failing, and that fear stops us from trying and learning new things or skills
- We have a mistaken belief that good communication is all “common sense”
- We inaccurately assume others know what we know
To really address the downsides of poor communication, to get to the many upsides of effective communication and accelerate our business results, we have to examine our beliefs and, in some cases, change them.
Improving communication involves more than just disseminating the message properly so that it’s heard (though that alone can be a challenge). It means ensuring that the message resonates with and is understood by the listener(s) in a way that will move them to action. It’s hard work, but it’s worth it.
What are some problems you've had that come out of poor communication?
Use this template to map out your communication— whether it’s to one person, a group or an organization.