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Overcoming Common Workplace Miscommunication

Overcoming Common Workplace Miscommunication
Overcoming Common Workplace Miscommunication

Overcoming Common Workplace Miscommunication

As our lives at work have become busier, faster-paced, and to some extent disconnected, the opportunity for miscommunication and misunderstanding has increased.

When we aren’t on the same page as our co-workers, the negative impact can have far-reaching consequences. Morale and productivity can decrease as employees focus on the wrong areas and even become disengaged. The result is that you and your team can miss the mark and fall short of your mission and goals. However, if we lean into what people are really saying and consider the how and what of our communication, we can overcome the challenges and ensure an open and trusting workplace.

Common Workplace Miscommunication Themes

Infographic: Top 15 Reasons Your Employees StayOne of the most significant issues contributing to miscommunication is a lack of clarity. Employees may not feel comfortable saying what they mean or asking for what they really want. (Although this may be a communication misfire, you also want to be sure it isn’t something inherent in your workplace culture and that there is a climate of psychological safety.)

Let’s take a look at some common themes that appear in workplace miscommunication:

Common theme:

Others are getting credit for the work that I did.

The meaning behind it:

Employees feel underappreciated and lack the feedback necessary for self-evaluation and reflection. They may feel that their work goes unnoticed while others receive praise for similar input and results.

How to overcome the miscommunication:

As the receiver of the message, consider if they've been overlooked or if there's an actual issue with their performance. Either way, it's necessary to be in a continuous conversation with your co-workers to create effective feedback loops.

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Common theme:

I put in much more work than what I am paid for.

The meaning behind it:

This is the quintessential phrase used in place of “I feel overworked and underpaid.”

How to overcome the miscommunication:

When you hear this, it's a classic red flag signaling employee burnout and dissatisfaction. This is a good time to consider if the employee has recently taken on more responsibilities or a larger workload, or perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate their role and compensation. On a larger scale, is your organization rewarding and promoting those that overwork? Be sure that your culture isn’t detrimental to your employees and the overall organization.

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Common theme:

Why are we even doing any of this? What is the meaning of our work?

The meaning behind it:

There's a lack of direction and clear vision of what we're ultimately accomplishing. Employees may not have a sense of what the organization’s reason for being is or how their role fits into the bigger picture.

How to overcome the miscommunication:

Every organization exists for a reason, but sometimes employees have a hard time connecting their every day to the bigger picture. Leaders need to clearly communicate each and every employee’s value to the mission at hand. Are the organization’s reason for being and Core Values top of mind? Is everyone aware of how their contributions play into the company’s success? If not, it is easy to feel like a cog in the wheel and to become disengaged. We like to say, “Live, don’t laminate!” What good are the company’s vision and values if they just live on a poster? They need to be lived out and visible in every corner of the organization.

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Common theme:

It's easier to do this myself.

The meaning behind it:

I am afraid that this project will fail, and I will look like a failure.

How to overcome the miscommunication:

This theme is extremely common with newer or up-and-coming leaders. The art of delegation is difficult to master, and many people underestimate the value of assistance in achieving complex goals. To help avoid the situation, it is important to model delegation and emphasize the importance of allowing everyone the opportunity to use their strengths and focus on the areas that will yield the best results for the entire team. In addition, this is another example of ensuring a climate of psychological safety. Delegate – and if mistakes are made, then everyone learns and grows!

How Leaders Can Model Effective Communication

Effective communication is not an elusive mirage; it just takes conscious effort and attention to a few key areas of communication.

When receiving unclear or coded communication from others, it is important to remember that, for the most part, the intention is good – it is the message that gets misconstrued. Be cautious when responding, and be sure you take all information into consideration and ask questions to get to the true heart of the issue. Create a safe environment for real conversation and communication and coach those you lead to become effective communicators.

Your own communication needs to be clear, honest, and respectful. Consider the following when communicating to those you work with:

  • Tone: We can more easily read the tone of a message given in person, but when it is written – be sure to carefully consider the words used and the emotions they invoke. Ask yourself what the purpose of the communication is and who will be reading it. Your tone will and should change depending on these conditions.
  • Respect the audience: Don’t make assumptions about those receiving the communication. Include everything they need to know and if you are conveying less than positive news, don’t sugar-coat or downplay the impact it may be having; think of how you would feel on the receiving end of the message.
  • Pay attention to details: Proofread your communication, even the shortest email. Details are important, and if your communication is sloppy or hard to understand, the true message could be lost or not take seriously.
  • Change must be communicated clearly: If you are communicating a change that impacts the reader, don’t leave room for interpretation. Let them know what, why, and how of what this means for everyone involved. Change brings uncertainty, and the more you can alleviate that, the better communication and understanding you will build.
  • Medium: There are multiple means of communication available today, and each of them has written and unwritten sets of rules. They are also received in different ways. For example: Don’t tweet important company information that requires a delicate touch and detailed information. Be cognizant of the who and the what and utilize the medium best suited for the message.

When communicating in the workplace, be aware that words matter and that the way in which they are delivered makes an impact. As we deliver and receive communication, be aware of the miscommunication themes and the ways in which they can be avoided. Clear and honest communication is a pillar of a strong organization and a catalyst for growth and success!

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About Author

Stephanie Stoll

Stephanie works with subject matter experts and our Client Experience team to design and deliver content and services to our clients. Her background in sales and training combined with her formal education in Adult Learning drive her to create and deliver impactful user experiences.

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