How to handle communication breakdown in the workplace

Great communication is at the heart of any successful business – we all know that, right? But it’s not just about shouting about your amazing product or service. It’s making sure that the communication within your own company is in top shape. In one survey, a worrying 86% of workers cited ineffective communication for workplace failures. So, here’s how to fix it if things go wrong.

Take your time

If things have gone awry with your company’s communications somewhere, it’s tempting to storm in there straightaway to sort it all out. But exercising caution is more sensible, so you can really get to the root of the problem. Don’t assume the first, most obvious reason you find is the right one. Money Crashers advises handling communication breakdown this way: “gather and confirm information before making a decision…focus on problems, not personalities.” It’s a smart way to ensure you don’t point fingers and instead, focus on the solution.

It’s good to talk…

Company leaders who are clear and open about what’s expected of their employees, who share successes and explain what that big next project is all about are doing the right thing. But all too often, the top brass in an organisation operate on a ‘need to know’ basis with their employees, doesn’t share any updates and, as a result, creates a culture of secrecy. It’s a big mistake.  Refresh Leadership showed 33.5% of people thought ‘poor leadership’ was the biggest cause of communication breakdown. So remember to keep your team in the loop – it’ll help restore those bonds.

…but listening is better

Because of course, just talking at your employees won’t help. It’s just as crucial to make sure you actively listen to them, too. “[This] means you make a conscious effort to truly hear what the other person is saying—in their words as well as their body language,” according to the Seattle PI blog. “Practice holding off thinking about how to respond or interrupting until you have thoroughly heard what they are saying.” Remember that successful communication is a two-way street, and taking on board your employee’s feedback will make them feel more valued.

Be flexible with your approach

Think about how different each of your employees are before working out the best way to fix communication with them. You have the opportunity to build individual relationships that can pay real dividends.  Refresh Leadership say “It’s important to stay up to date on how people are communicating and be able to flex to a style or technology that best suits your message and your audience.” You may need to adapt to your employees’ different generations, adds HR magazine: “Each generation has its own communication style, as well as distinct values and feedback needs. Conflicts between baby boomers and generations X, Y and Z often occur when communication and engagement falter.” So think about your delivery and what channel they would be most receptive to.

Always be positive

Dealing with a problem like communication failure is no picnic, but if you can stay positive with the way you approach it, it will have a beneficial impact on those around you. “Even the harshest feedback can and should be delivered in a positive, supportive, team-centric manner,” says Seattle PI. “Stay focused on behaviour or performance and not character.” Also make sure your body language is sending the right message. “If you slouch, jam your hands into your pockets, shuffle your feet and avoid eye contact, people will get the impression you don’t want to communicate with them,” says Forbes.com. So put down that smartphone, look at someone in the eye and start repairing the communication breakdown.