8 Causes of Communication Breakdown In Business
There are many factors that contribute to failure in the business world. You may assume that one of the biggest factors is poor decision making. While poor decision making can cost companies millions of dollars, there might even be a bigger culprit: communication breakdown. It is estimated that one-third of all failed or delayed projects are a result of a breakdown in communication.
Communication is absolutely essential to the success of a business. A lack of clear communication can end up being incredibly detrimental on all levels of your organization. Even the slightest communication breakdown can result in a project falling behind schedule or a deal falling through completely.
Being able to identify the most common breakdowns in communication can go a long way towards preventing communication breakdowns from costing your company. With that in mind, the following are eight of the most common communication breakdowns in business.
1. No Client Communication Plan
Without a client communication plan, it will be challenging to know the metrics of success. It will leave the stakeholders clueless and employees with no guidance.
Every business should have a client communication plan in place. This plan should inform employees, managers, stakeholders, and sponsors how, where, and when they should communicate. Without such a plan, it can be difficult to know what the correct process for communicating is, leaving all involved parties either clueless as to how to proceed or overwhelmed.
2. Leaders Do Not Communicate Effectively
Businesses that have clear and effective communication benefit from clear leadership. The leaders at the top of your company should establish the standards on how to communicate clearly. If your leaders don’t communicate clearly or are inconsistent with their communication, then you can’t expect your employees to do much better. For example, managers who share valuable insights with their team members on a regular basis set a precedent that team members will follow -- they’ll pick up the habit of sharing information that might benefit their coworkers even if it doesn’t necessarily benefit themselves. This kind of sharing is one of the advantages of good communication and it all starts with leading by example.
3. Sending Irrelevant Information
There’s no use in receiving a message that does not apply at all. When leadership is constantly sending messages to their employees and those messages contain irrelevant information, then employees are going to begin ignoring those messages. This can be a real issue if an urgent message is sent out and it’s ignored because its recipients assume that it will be irrelevant.
You can avoid this potential problem by making sure your messages are targeted to specific groups of employees. You can do this by segmenting emails or texts to employees based on departments, job roles, regions, and more. This ensures that the messages you send out are relevant to the recipient, thereby ensuring that they pay attention to your messages when they receive them.
4. Unopened Line of Communication With The Management
If your employees have no way to communicate with management, then it is going to be difficult for management to keep track of what their employees are doing and what kind of progress they are making. Your employees need a way to communicate with management in order to ask questions, address issues, or simply help keep them up to date. This is especially true for your customer-facing employees. A lack of communication lines between employees and management will make your employees less productive and it will also make them feel less valued since there is no way for them to have their issues addressed. It can hurt your business in other ways too -- for example, if an employee has an idea on how to improve a certain inefficiency in your processes, who are they supposed to report this idea to if there are no communication lines with your management? By simply opening up lines of communication between employees and managers, you encourage employees to be more involved.
5. Managers Keep Employees Out Of The Loop
Making sure employees are able to communicate with managers is important, but so is making sure that your managers communicate with your employees. One of the issues that many companies have is that their managers assume that employees are on a need-to-know basis. However, keeping employees in the loop about where they stand, what the goals of the project are, how the project is doing, and how the business is doing, provides them with a feeling that they are actually a part of the company and have a stake in how it does.
By keeping them out of the loop, they are less likely to care about anything other than getting done what they’re tasked with getting done, which can hurt the quality of their work as well as their productivity (why put extra effort towards your job if you don’t know what that extra effort will result in?). As such, make sure that your managers keep your employees in the loop so that they are more involved, more productive, and more emotionally invested in the success of your company.
6. No Platform For Workplace Communication
Companies should provide a secure communication platform. If you don’t have a company wide platform through which employees can communicate, they are going to find other ways to communicate with one another. Team members have to find ways to communicate with each other, after all. Unfortunately, this often leads to employees using modes of communication that may not be secure. For example, they may send emails to each other containing sensitive information. Not only do you risk having sensitive data exposed by allowing employees to find their own ways to communicate with each other, but it makes it more difficult to track productivity.
There are plenty of software solutions out there that can provide your employees with a secure place to communicate directly and to share important information. Such platforms not only promote secure and easy communication, but they make it easier for employees to work together and for managers to track the progress of their teams.
7. Stressful Work Environment
The stressful work environment can strain communication between employees in the workplace. An example of this is when employees are feeling overloaded, and the company is understaffed.
A stressful work environment can make it difficult for employees to communicate effectively. If they are overwhelmed with work because you are understaffed, then they may forget to send important messages to their managers or coworkers, resulting in breakdowns in communication.
Stress in the form of fear can prevent employees from sharing information when they should as well. For example, if they aren’t treated well by their managers they may be afraid to let them know if there is an issue, or if the work environment is way too competitive, they may withhold information from coworkers that could help them do their job more effectively or efficiently.
8. Incorrect Mode Of Communication
Different interactions require different modes of communication. The topic and urgency of the message define what mode of communication is appropriate. For example, if you have an urgent message that you need to get out to your employees, mailing out letters to their individual addresses isn’t going to be a very effective way to reach them. Email might be a little better, but even then, emails can often go unread for hours, if not days. Instead, calling your employees directly will be the most effective way to ensure that they receive a particularly urgent message.
You should also take into account who is receiving the message. Employees who are at their desks for the majority of their workdays are more likely to respond to emails or online chat messages, whereas employees who are working outside of their office are more likely to respond to texts or calls.
Ways To Improve Communication And Avoid Communication Breakdown
As many ways as there are for communication to breakdown across your organization, you can take steps to avoid such issues. The following are a few ways to encourage clear and efficient communication throughout your company.
Have An Open Door Policy
Employees shouldn’t feel hesitant about speaking with their managers or supervisors, whether it’s simply to keep them up to date with where they are at, informing them about issues that have come up, or providing ideas or insight that they think could be beneficial to the company. Unfortunately, they often do. In many cases, they may just be afraid of wasting their manager or supervisor’s time and getting in trouble for doing so. To prevent this line of thinking, you should encourage an open door policy throughout your organization. Let your managers and supervisors know that they should encourage employees to come and talk to them.
Put It Down In Writing
Orders should be put down in writing. Some employees and managers prefer this to avoid misinterpretation. There are times that managers or even employees forget about the task if it was requested verbally. When managers assign a task, they should also communicate to the employee the reason behind so that they will also understand.
When ordering an employee to do something, it should be put down in writing. In fact, every important task and responsibility should be written down as well as verbally communicated to ensure that the employee understands exactly what their task or responsibility is and the reasoning behind it. Not only will putting it in writing help reduce the risk of misinterpretation, it will also avoid potential finger pointing if the task isn’t completed.
Recognize Your Employees
This might seem like an odd tip, but knowing who your employees are can go a long way towards making them feel like they are a part of the company. If they see that you don’t recognize them -- even if you’ve met them before -- they will feel like a replacement level component of a giant machine. They’re not going to be very engaged as a result, which will not only hurt their productivity, but will diminish their desire to share ideas or information with co-workers, managers, and/or supervisors that could be beneficial to your company. Because of this, learn who your employees are and greet them by name when you see them.
Create A Communication Plan
Everyone in your organization should have a communication plan. This should provide information as to what methods of communication should be used to deliver certain types of information as well as guidelines as to who to contact for certain situations. For example, if an employee has a problem with their computer, the communication plan should include who they need to contact about troubleshooting (such as emailing or calling the IT team) and who they need to inform (such as their supervisor) if necessary.
You may even want to use your communication plan to encourage employees to speak to their supervisors or managers about any ideas that they may have and by suggesting the most appropriate mode of communication to do so.
Focus On Culture
Creating a positive work culture will help reduce stress amongst employees, making them more likely to engage and communicate both with each other and with upper management. One way to do this is by giving departments time to get to know each other. For example, having the head of the department take their team members out to lunch. You should also consider setting up casual meetings between departments so that they can get to know each other. It can be incredibly beneficial for sales personnel to be on friendly terms with your marketing personnel, for example. If they feel comfortable with each other and actually know each other somewhat, they’ll be more likely to work together by sending each other valuable insight.
Such familiarity can also help prevent feelings of animosity; for instance, you don’t want your entire sales team to have an issue with your marketing team because there was an issue with the leads they received, resulting in a low conversion rate. Instead, you want them to work together to address and solve the problem.
Have A Meeting Agenda
When employees attend meetings, whether they are within their department or organization-wide, they often go in blind with no idea what the meeting will be about. This is going to limit how much they are willing -- and able to -- contribute to your meetings. If you have an agenda that you hand out (or send out) before the meeting is held, employees can prepare and will be able to contribute in a more meaningful way.
Select The Right Business Communication Tool(s)
Don’t allow your employees to rely solely on text messaging each other or emailing each other. Implement communication tools that helps to make it easy for employees and managers to communicate and share. There are many communication tools built exactly for this purpose that will help streamline communications throughout your company.
Different Types Of Business Communication Tools
The following are a few effective tools that can help to improve communication within individual departments as well as across your organization:
Project Management Tools
Project management tools help ensure that everyone on the team knows exactly what their tasks and responsibilities are and when the deadlines for those tasks are, thereby helping reduce the risk of miscommunication. Additionally, team members can see who is working on what, making it easier to see where certain responsibilities lie. These tools also make it a lot easier for project managers to oversee the project and to assign tasks and responsibilities evenly and fairly across their teams. Some of the most user-friendly and feature-rich project management tools include Asana and Trello.
Document Collaboration Tools
Make it easy for employees to work together by investing in a document collaboration tool. Teams who are working together often end up emailing documents to one another over and over again as they are edited and notes are provided. This can result in a group of employees having dozens emails with slightly altered versions of the same document. Not only is this inefficient, but it makes it more difficult for employees to stay organized. Document collaboration tools, such as GSuite or Office 365, allow employees to share, access, edit, and add notes to documents in real time from one location.
Knowledge Center Tools
Implementing a knowledge center tool provides your employees easy access to readily available information on their own. This means that even with an open door policy, they won’t have to constantly turn to their supervisors or managers with questions to the point where your supervisors and managers are overwhelmed. A knowledge center tool can make it easy for your employees to access helpful information via FAQs, tutorials and more. There are plenty of knowledge center tools out there to choose from, but one of the most popular is Taskworld. Taskworld is particularly helpful due to its sharing capabilities, which means that employees can easily help each other out when needed.
Secure Instant Messaging Tools
Instant messaging is one of the easiest and effective ways for employees to communicate with one another, especially if they’re working behind a computer all day long. It is much more effective than emailing since it may take some time before an employee checks their emails. When providing your employees with an instant messaging tool, you’ll want to make sure it’s secure as well so that there is no risk of exposure when it comes to sensitive data. Instant messaging tools such as Facebook for Teams and Slack are widely regarded as effective, secure, and easy-to-use solutions.
Different Modes Of Communication
It is important that you use different modes of communication throughout your company. Limiting your employees will make it more difficult for them to communicate, whether it’s with each other or with management. The following are the different modes of communication you should be using:
When important matters need to be discussed, you should encourage managers and employees to speak directly with one another. This helps to ensure that the message is received and that there are no misinterpretations. This is one of the reasons you should encourage an open door policy.
Coworkers are going to text one another, especially if they’re doing work outside the office. Your managers and supervisors may as well. Texting is a good way to get somebody’s attention without requiring an in-depth conversation (or to set up an in-depth conversation in person). Texting can be done via phone or via instant messaging apps.
Email is still effective if you don’t need an immediate response (or a response at all). It lets you deliver a longer message to more than one person at a time.
If you are in need of an immediate response, or have more to discuss that can’t be summarized in text form, then communicating through phone is still the best method. It is beneficial to make sure your employees and managers are reachable when they are out of the office and that they have dedicated work phones for when they are in the office.
Communication Breakdown Is Expensive
Breakdowns in communication aren’t just a mild annoyance. They can cause serious problems throughout your business. Communication breakdowns have been known to tank huge deals and can cause you to lose customers. They can also cause friction between your employees and your management. Issues with communication cause employees to misunderstand their goals, responsibilities, tasks, company policies, and business processes, all of which can result in the loss of productivity and an increase in human errors. As a result, communication breakdowns can end up being incredibly expensive. This is why encouraging good communication from the top down is so important to the success of your business.
Better Communication In The Workplace Improves Productivity
Close. Communication in the workplace should be elevated as it greatly impacts the productivity of the business, among employees, clients, management. There should be alignment in words and in actions.
At the end of the day, poor communication will cost your business money, while good communication will help to improve productivity. As such, it is important that you take your company’s communication capabilities seriously. Get everybody on the same page when it comes to your communication plan, encourage communication and collaboration across departments, and provide your employees with the communication tools that they need to make communication easier and more efficient.