• The ManageUp Team

Poor Communication is Detrimental, Managers Hold the Key to the Solutions

Updated: Jul 22, 2019

Effective communication is the lifeblood of any organization, an observation that managers and workers can agree upon. When channels of information and feedback are blocked, unclear, or altogether missing, the organization suffers tremendously.

Even where there is communication or a lot of chat happening in the workplace, it is the manager’s responsibility to oversee that communication is productive, taking place the right way.

Why do managers need to address communication issues? What happens when there is poor communication in the workplace?

1. Project delays or failures ($75 million at risk)

In a survey conducted by The Economist Intelligence Unit, 44% of their respondents indicated that miscommunication led to delay or failure to complete a project.

In a similar study, the Pulse research report by the Project Management Institute (PMI), 55% of failed projects result from ineffective communication. The report cites that for every one billion dollars spent on a project, $75 million is put at risk because of communication inefficiencies.

The usual culprits in failed initiatives are misunderstanding between parties and the lack of communication tools that allow transparency as well as remote and real-time collaboration. When projects do not get completed on time or are unsuccessful, the company loses resources, profits, and essential time.

2. Loss of a sale

According to The Economist Intelligence Unit, 30% of those losses were valued between $100,000 and $999,999. This is a big chunk of money which could have sealed the business' stability and led to more opportunities.

Unrealized profits are deterrents to reaching company goals, showcase as poor performance, and reflect broken internal processes. The loss of a sale lowers team morale and confidence in the marketing of the products or services that the team endorses.

3. Employee stress and low morale

Communication breakdowns also contribute to employee stress (52%) and low morale (31%). Studies show that where there is poor communication in the workplace, there is also a high level of stress and burnout. There usually exists a great divide between the management and the staff. The gap hampers feedback and relay of information and conflicts usually arise.

Communication barriers can be due to generational differences in the way employees interact with each other. Feedback channels may be missing or not at all welcome in settings where quick and digestible communication is essential for younger employees. Middle managers may also fail to disseminate information, leaving the staff struggling to decipher unclear instructions or are left in the dark of the progress of a project.

Low morale results when an intimidating communication culture dampens team spirit or when fear permeates working relationships. For example, when newly hired employees who are highly motivated are not recognized, they may ultimately become unproductive. Disengaged employees misconstrue constructive criticisms as bullying, which distracts them away from work-related tasks.

Employee disengagement at this level spirals into organization-wide effects including lost sales, increased operational costs, and poor company branding, such as unsatisfactory online reviews and poor reputation by word of mouth.

4. Poor communication kills productivity and wastes time.

Everyone has 24 hours in a day, no more, no less; his means everyone has an equal opportunity to be productive and contribute to a company’s bottom line. Yet some companies perform better than others.

While many factors determine a business' success, effective communication is a leading indicator of financial performance.

Towers Watson's Communication ROI Study Report found that strong communication practices yielded 47% higher returns to shareholders compared to those companies with poor communication.

Here are some ways that faulty communication affects the way staff utilizes time for the company’s good:

● Rummaging through email messages for certain information

● Too many face-to-face meetings

● Resolving conflicts and rectifying errors caused by miscommunication

● Waiting for reports, approvals, comments on a document submitted to a team

● Duplication or redundancy of tasks because roles and instructions are unclear

● Making up for project delays and failures

20% of the time is spent looking for internal information or tracking down colleagues for help

● Average time spent in the office trying to contact customers or colleagues:

74 minutes

5. Poor customer service as a consequence of information silos.

When clients express their concerns, and they receive unsatisfactory customer service, it reflects poorly on the organization. It shows that gaps exist between departments and teams are disconnected. Company representatives cannot provide the right information because they are not in the know.

Unresolved issues send customers out of door and into your competitor’s lap and prompts negative online reviews. Poor customer service equates to a loss of profits and poor branding.

6. Inefficient workflow processes and overall organizational performance.

Eighty-six percent of managers link the lack of collaboration or ineffective communications to workplace failures. When employees do not communicate properly to execute every step of a workflow process, which is primarily designed to streamline tasks, they fail to utilize the workflow processes according to its purpose.

When workflows do not help to improve performance, it means wasted resources, dissatisfied customers, and disengaged employees. This combination is deadly in the sense that it could snowball into overall poor organizational performance and slowed progress.

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7. Errors that lead to damages or worker/customer injuries.

What’s worse is that there are scenarios where communication errors result in injury or death. These fatal mistakes typically take place in hospitals, airlines, and/or nuclear power plants. In healthcare settings, for instance, communication failures was found to be the leading cause of medical errors that jeopardize patient safety.

Communication is an important lever of management that leaders can pull to achieve performance that will skyrocket an organization towards success. But here’s a sad realization: many employees believe their managers are lousy communicators and find it intimidating to consult them with work-related matters.

As a manager, it is crucial to examine how information flows in your company and then take solid action to improve internal communications.

Here are ways that you as a manager can step up and improve communication channels:

1. Be an active listener

For effective communication to happen, it has to be two-way with continuous feedback. Listening is an essential aspect of communication because it is the gateway to the system being closed-loop. A manager who is an active listener will have a better understanding of their team's struggles and concerns, thereby enabling them to extend help and support accordingly.

2. Use strategic communication

The reason why managers are considered poor communicators is because they explain things without taking into account how employees will receive the message.

The usual mistake is they use technical or management terms and they talk about things that employees do not have prior knowledge or background on. Employees who receive the information get confused and would likely misinterpret the message they received.

As a manager, learn how to present ideas strategically, in a clear, concise, and persuasive way. Adjust your communication styles according to your audience, whether it be higher-ups or the bottom line staff.

3. Establish and strengthen upward communication

In many organizations, information from the bottom line to middle managers and the higher to the C-suite is riddled with uncertainties and irregularities. Feedback channels are missing or employees are hesitant to approach the management with their ideas, concerns, and suggestions for fear of being criticized, unrecognized, or misinterpreted.

To establish effective communication channels from the bottom to the top, develop grievance standard operating procedures (SOPs), open door policies, employee surveys, exit interviews, and a collaborative platform that will level the hierarchy and allow for equal participation and feedback for everyone, managers and employees alike.

Open door policies are created primarily to allow employees to directly interact with managers regarding any concern; still, staff may not feel comfortable and confident meeting leaders face-to-face. An online feedback system may be best to use because it can give employees the option to anonymously voice their concerns or ask questions without feeling intimidated or fearful.

Exit interviews are also a good way to learn why employees, especially high-performers, leave the company. They will likely be truthful about their struggles and frustrations without worrying about retaliation.

Another way to facilitate upward communication is to establish a solid means of collaboration that encourages not only teamwork, feedback, but also participation in decision-making.

4. Polish downward and horizontal communication

Downward communication or top-to-bottom flow of information is the most basic form of interaction that is required to run a business Still, even this form of communication can cause problems if not carefully planned and executed. Using emails to disseminate information, for example, may not engage employees when the message is sandwiched in a 100-emails-per-day kind of inbox.

Communicating updates or organizational changes are also crucial for making workflow processes smooth and preventing confusion among staff. Everyone involved in the organization should be in the know of changes - even part of developing the changes- and must be on the same page as the rest of the team, or else, their tasks won't sync to resonate with the rest of the group.

When giving instructions, see to it that directions are clear and concise and that employees who are tasked to carry them out have the tools needed to succeed or have enough room to bring out their creativity.

Use technology wisely. There are so many communication apps or software out there that are good for socializing with friends, but they just don’t cut it when used for businesses. For information dissemination, collaboration and teamwork, use one that enables file-sharing and employee engagement features and that which you can use remotely or while on the move.

Limit face-to-face meetings if your agenda is simple and can be done over collaboration platforms or video conferencing. This way, you save time and resources.

Horizontal communication is equally important because this is how interpersonal relationships are built at work. Exemplify a respectful way of talking with colleagues and to strictly enforce a ‘no bullying’ policy to eliminate the culture of fear. Also, develop a conflict resolution process because conflicts are inevitable.

Managers who are competent communicators are the leaders who make a real difference in an organization. And this is why ManageUP platform was created - to empower managers and unleash their team’s potentials by building a strong and reliable internal communication system. With ManageUP, leaders can open up channels of communication, ensure transparency, break down silos, level the hierarchy, and engage their team.


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