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In our post-pandemic hybrid and remote offices, workplace communication issues can create a negative working environment and cost your organisation financially. Individual teams and employees have different communication styles and need diverse ways to share and collaborate. When proper channels are unavailable, employees may feel unincluded, uninvolved and unvalued. Poor communication could limit your employees from going above and beyond. Today, let’s look at poor communication in the workplace and find out how we can solve these communication issues.

What poor communication looks like

Poor communication in an organisational setting is the lack of mutual understanding of what is happening among colleagues and within the company. There are many ways it presents itself, but here are examples of poor communication hiding in plain sight:

  • Unstable work environment
  • Low employee morale
  • Missed deadlines
  • Workplace confusion or conflict

Poor communication manifests itself in various situations in the office. While some may seem hidden and others easier to spot, they can demotivate your employees, lower company morale, increase staff turnover, and ultimately damage your business.

Free Guide: Company-wide knowledge sharing

Reframing Good Communication

Emerging from the pandemic, companies have decided to go remote-first or have shifted to a hybrid working model. The modern workplace’s reliance on digital tools has dramatically increased with an abundance of platforms for collaboration. Some use instant messaging like Slack, while others stick to the classic email. Several turn to project management tools, while a few still go for video calls. With countless options, a tool remains only a tool unless there is an overarching communication strategy and management of all this information in one place. 

Clear communication is more important than ever. Companies must ensure that their communication workflow is streamlined, structured and automatically documented for critical knowledge to be organised and shared clearly and effectively. This fosters trust and engagement among employees, strengthening team alignment and collaboration.

What Causes Communication Issues in the Workplace?

The first step in fixing workplace communication issues starts with recognising their root causes. 

Barriers in Effective Communication

In managerial studies, communication barriers are difficulties when sharing or receiving information. They are classed into four categories and include examples unmistakably applicable to the modern workplace. 

Encoding Barriers

These obstacles happen while transforming information into a meaningful message, hindering effective communication. 

  • When sharing information is not adapted or tailored to its intended audience, expect a breakdown in communication. Acknowledging a receiver’s knowledge of the subject and role in the company prepares the sender to compose a successful message.
  • Differences in communication skills and styles can lead to frustration among employees and teams.
  • Insufficient knowledge of a subject leads to confusion among staff.
  • Information overload leads to communication fatigue. When an organisation communicates too much information repeatedly, important messages get lost while employees ignore the overwhelming influx of information.

More to read: How to make the most of knowledge sharing across your entire company?

Transmitting Barriers

These are the noise that gets in the way of transmitting the information.

  • Physical distractions like poorly formatted emails and reports or a bad internet connection during a video call can destroy communication—the focus on the message is lost.
  • Language and cultural differences may result in incomplete or conflicting communication. The use of jargon or slang may not translate easily to those who are not familiar.
  • Preference for different communication channels or platforms may cease communication or create communication gaps. 
  • Long communication chains or threads distort and alter the original message.

Decoding Barriers

When information is not processed appropriately at the receiving end, the communication cycle may completely stop. 

  • A lack of interest from a disengaged employee ends up with incomplete information that could lead to miscommunication.
  • The absence of direct communication between remote team members creates communication gaps that breed assumptions and misinterpretations. 
  • Employees unsure or confused where to look for gathered or documented information cause communication delays and breakdowns.

Responding Barriers

When an organisation does not hold safe space for sharing concerns and feedback, there is no communication cycle. 

  • When team members are afraid to speak up, information and ideas are held back.
  • Inadequate and untimely feedback interferes with good communication. Employee’s performance may suffer when they are kept in the dark of what is expected of them.

Further reading: Making Sure Your Message Reaches Everyone In The Team

Major Workplace Communication Issues

After learning about communication barriers and why they happen, here are communication issues to pay attention to, especially as the world shifts to more remote and hybrid work:

Misunderstandings Brought About by Individual Communication Styles 

People have different styles and levels of communication skills, including preferences for verbal and written communication. Some may be very good at conveying ideas verbally and need help writing them down or the other way around. When required to document and share in a style or skill, not their forte, some information may be lost and cause confusion or misunderstanding. A great example would be poorly formatted emails or reports for team members who need to be more skilled in writing. It has become a challenge to align employees to a single organisational style and tone of communication.

Confusions from Language and Cultural Differences

As organisations become more diverse and inclusive, ensuring everyone communicates in a way that everybody understands has become a big responsibility. The lack of context and nuances and the use of idioms and jargon can be a source of confusion and misinterpretation. 

Information Overload Fatigue

Overcommunication can be good, but only for supervisors or managers who need to engage multi-located teams when appropriately streamlined. However, for the regular team member, getting numerous messages irrelevant to their work leads to disengagement. As employees lose interest, critical information gets lost, too.

Valuable Time Wasted in Stacked and Non-Cohesive Messaging

Information regurgitated through stacked messaging and multiple communication channels wastes time and effort and overlooks what is essential. Not only that, the original message or data gets altered. Additionally, scattered messaging leads to scattered company knowledge. Employees waste time looking for information they need, adding more delays to the communication cycle, if not causing breakdowns. 

Communication Gaps from Physical Distance and Varying Time Zones

The absence of regular personal interaction among team members in different time zones can cause a breakdown in communication unless teams are set up with the right tools. When your work set-up fails to align your teams and falls short in maintaining employee engagement, communication suffers, and so does your performance and productivity. 

Information Silos

When communication is always vertical and directed to certain people in an organisation, silos arise, limiting the sharing and communicating of information. These information silos lead to consequential communication and collaboration problems.

Fragmentary, Dismissive Feedback System

The lack of meaningful, timely feedback creates confusion among team members. A supervisor who does not allow questions or dialogues while discussing tasks leads to confused employees who need clarification about what to do. An organisation that does not have a safe space for team members to voice their concerns or share alternative perspectives end up missing out on potentially great ideas. 

You might also like: What is procedural knowledge and how you can make the most of it?

Tackling Communication Issues in the Workplace

Create Communication Templates and Be Consistent

Templates are a great way to simplify and standardise communication in an organisation. Regardless of style or skill, you empower your teams to share the needed information while giving them the confidence that they are communicating the correct details and sending the proper updates most efficiently. A knowledge management platform that supports and curates custom templates is the easiest way to curate communication processes and align everyone on a typical style that minimises misunderstandings. 

Provide Multilingual Content and Jargon Glossaries

A glossary of workplace and industry terms helps lessen the confusion of slang and jargon. Another powerful hack would be to enable multilingual content and automatic translations. If your company uses more than one language and your teams are spread out in different countries, having a knowledge-sharing tool that breaks down language barriers allows employees to receive information in their preferred language no matter where they are. You save so much by reducing miscommunications, time and effort associated with translation issues.

Streamline Communication Flows

To alleviate information fatigue brought about by overcommunication, an intelligent way to go about it is by designing communication streams that filter messages to the right people at the right time. This way, no one is bombarding anyone with information they do not need. A good platform facilitates integration with other digital communication tools to connect and centralise interactions.

Provide Easy, Powerful Search Experience

On top of an intelligent communication flow, a search function that allows everyone in your company to look up previously shared information and documents saves your company much time and boosts your efficiency. A suitable knowledge-sharing tool enables you to navigate and coordinate information from scattered communication. 

Centralise Interactions and Align Employees

The right approach can synchronise and align teams across different spaces and time zones. The appropriate digital tool enables meaningful, efficient communication and work processes without sharing the same office. The key is the capacity to centralise interactions and link them to relevant documents and procedures that set everyone in the team up for individual success.

Break Down Information Silos

An effective strategy for counteracting information silos is structuring a cascading communication where communication channels are intentional and accurate information is sent to the correct stakeholder. Meanwhile, said information is automatically stored in a central place accessible to everyone. This central repository for knowledge and communication allows for easy onboarding and offboarding. Whenever a new employee enters the company, onboarding is efficient and sped up. Employees can transfer knowledge ownership to someone else to safeguard specific insights and keep them alive when they leave. Company knowledge is then transversal allowing everyone to access and improve on them for the benefit of the organisation.

Provide a Positive Feedback Space

Maintaining a safe space or incentivising sharing feedback bridges communication gaps and serves as an incubator for alternative ideas and creative solutions. Timely and constructive feedback communicates to employees what they are doing well or what they need to improve. 

Build a Culture of Trust and Improve Your Communication

Organisations with no standard guidelines usually end up with employees lacking engagement. With no expectations or outlined best practices, team members make no effort and send incomplete reports, horribly composed messages, or poorly formatted emails. Chances are, the same employees end up turning their cameras and microphones off during Zoom meetings. This disengagement breeds poor collaboration and an unenthusiastic workforce.

Minimising miscommunication and solving workplace communication issues across all channels nurtures employees to be fully informed and builds trust in the workplace. Elium can help you achieve this with a dynamic knowledge-sharing platform focused on strong, open communication that fosters connection among employees and alignment to organisational goals.  

Download our company-wide guide today to redesign your communication flows around a knowledge-sharing culture. Request a demo or sign up for a free trial to get you started!

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