Causes and Effects of Poor Employee Communication in the Workplace
Company Success and Employee Engagement Begin with Good Communication Practices
Employee engagement is a hot topic these days, and rightly so. Only one-third of employees consider themselves “engaged.” Why should you care? Higher workplace engagement leads to a nearly 40 percent reduction in absenteeism and 21 percent higher productivity, not to mention what it does for customer service. Ever talked to a pissed off customer service rep? Not fun. It was in October that we learned about the disgruntled 9-1-1 operator who was not only rude to callers, but put their lives in danger.
While most customer-facing employees don’t have a customer’s life in their hands, they do have a significant impact on how that consumer views the company. Helping employees feel valued is one step in boosting employee engagement. Another step is empowering them with the right tools, information and resources to do their jobs well.
It’s not surprising that 50 percent of employees say bosses sharing information and data has a significantly positive impact on productivity and motivation. Know what else is valuable? When employees can share information and data amongst each other. All of this takes one thing – communication. Think communication is relegated to personal relationships? Take a look at why employee communications matters.
Recommended Reading: Tools to Improve Employee Communication
Common Causes of Poor Workplace Communication
From leadership to morale, here are 4 common causes of poor employee communication within your business.
Leadership Teams Not Leading By Example
Poor communication in the workplace happens when executives, owners, and managers fail to practice good communication with employees. As a leader, it’s important to set clear expectations, goals, and establish understanding around objectives.
Leaders are sometimes left to practice poor communication when they are asked to hide details from staff. This can result in confusion and mistrust by employees if business leaders routinely practice this type of workplace deception.
Avoiding poor communication as a company leader also means that the modes by which you choose to communicate with employees should be done in a manner that showcases how you expect to see staff members communicate with one another.
Objectives Are Not Clear Enough
If employees don’t understand what the deliverables are, what clients’ goals are, or what your team’s objectives are, it’s likely due to poor workplace communication. It’s not someone’s intention to set unclear objectives at work, but sometimes managers assume that what makes sense to them must make sense to their employees.
Avoid poorly communicating with your team on objectives by delivering clear timelines, deliverables, goals and double-checking with your staff that they understand what is expected of them.
Not Providing Employees With Meaningful Feedback
Poor feedback is the ultimate communication killer in workplaces. Employees, managers, and C-suite executives thrive on receiving feedback that helps them improve at their jobs.
Feedback is often limited by either not creating time for it or by providing lackluster feedback that doesn’t give employees anything to actionably make improvements to.
Recommended Reading: Why Employee performance Review Should Include Peer-to-Peer Recognition
Withholding positive feedback or praising employees in the wrong way can also be a form of poor communication. Ensure that praise is positioned in the form of a growth mindset phrase rather than a fixed mindset.
Example of growth-mindset feedback:
“Great job on getting all of those deliverables done on time. It was clear that you managed your time well and understood how to prioritize your work this week.”
Example of fixed-mindset feedback:
“You’re really smart and great at getting things done fast.”
The former gives them a clear understanding of what actions they needed to perform well in order to complete the task and acknowledgment that they did that this time. The latter phrase is vague but also assumes that they’re already great and no longer need to work on improving.
Low Employee Morale
Once a team begins experiencing low morale, you’ll notice that company buy-in and communication will also diminish amongst employees. Their low morale is a symptom of not feeling valued at your company which is also most likely caused by the other poor communication causes we mentioned above.
A demoralized staff will not only begin deprioritizing their communication efforts with each other but likely will fail to communicate well with clients and customers.
Recommended Reading: 4 Employee Engagement Ideas That Boost Morale
6 Effects of Poor Communication in the Workplace
1) Decreased Cross-Collaboration
One-third of employees say the ability to collaborate makes them more loyal. How do we collaborate? Through lots of communication and sharing of ideas and data. It’s usually not the lack of ability to collaborate that’s the problem. Most of us learned how to work well with others back in kindergarten. The problem is that many organizations don’t provide modern collaboration tools that make collaborating easy.
Improve cross-collaboration by giving employees visibility into coworkers’ skills, contact info, location, and more with org chart software.
Check out this interactive example:
Build your own org chart for better collaboration
It is becoming increasingly rare to work in an office where everyone works in the same location, during the same hours. As we become more mobile, more of us work remotely, making in-person collaboration challenging. Every organization, particularly those with any remote or traveling employees, must provide an easy-to-use, easy-to-access communication and collaboration tool to bring everyone together, even if only virtually.
Recommended Reading: The Importance of Effective Collaboration in the Workplace (and Software Tools To Help)
2) Lower Morale
We don’t need statistics to know that when our employer isn’t communicating well or giving us good tools to communicate with each other, it can be frustrating. There is more misunderstanding, and less accountability and empowerment. Things get missed, projects get delayed and someone gets blamed. That’s no way to work and it’s sure not going to motivate you to come to work each day and give it your all. Hence, disengagement.
Employee morale does more than just impact co-workers, it can have a spillover effect to customers. In fact, companies who report the highest employee satisfaction rates often are among consumers’ favorite companies. Is it because happy employees are more likely to put the customer first? Maybe it’s as simple as just feeling good mojo at work makes you feel like spreading the love.
Communication is the root of every relationship. Virtually every study of relationships sites a lack of communication as the number one cause for divorce and/or discord. You may not be able to help every employee learn how to use their words effectively, but you sure as hell can give them a platform for which they can engage with coworkers.
3) Reduced Efficiency/Productivity
We’ve often cited the stat that 20% of employee time is spent looking for information or people who can help. We use this stat because it is so critical in understanding where all the time is going. Isn’t that a question business leaders ask themselves regularly?
I’d say the large majority of companies are consistently and deliberately looking for ways to increase productivity while lowering costs. It’s a basic ROI concept. If you want to get the most out of the talent you have, give them the tools they need to do more. The 20 percent of their day wasted searching for people and information is low-hanging fruit you can quickly and easily get back simply by giving them communication tools that put all of that information at their fingertips. Email is not the answer. It is the problem. How much time do you spend digging through emails and email chains, trying to locate an attachment, reading through emails to find who said what, or sending emails that take hours, if not days, to get a response?
4) Suppressed Innovation
Something magical happens when people can communicate and collaborate effectively…innovation is sparked. The ideation process usually takes more than one person. Sure, you may have a product genius on board, but most innovation involves multiple people putting their heads together to imagine, to counter and edit each other, and to execute. These people may not be physically located in the same building or even the same country. Do they have easy ways to come together?
Innovation takes creativity and imagination, but it also takes teamwork. Giving employees a platform to communicate, share data and ideas, and track their progress can only augment the innovative culture companies need to stay competitive. It shouldn’t be a pain to find out who in product development you need to talk to about your great idea. Put employee skillsets, current projects, experience and availability in one place where any co-worker can easily find it to quickly connect and see what that does for innovation.
5) Increased Employee Grumbling
Complaining employees is nothing new. Countless TV shows and movies parody such behavior. One thing that is relatively new is how far-reaching those grumblings can be. In the past, one disgruntled employee may tell five co-workers about how miserable they are. Today, however, social media puts a gigantic megaphone to every employee’s rants, exposing companies to a reputation crisis.
Whether it be social media or a review on Glassdoor, potential recruits are looking to see what your employees have to say about you before they apply or accept a position, 76 percent of them, in fact. According to Glassdoor, one-third of job seekers won’t apply to a company unless it has three or more stars on its review.
So what is the biggest complaint employees have when it comes to their employers? The number one problem appears to be a lack of communication. This can be communication from executives to lower-ranking employees, or between employees. Communication matters and your employees want to feel like they have open doors and an effective communication platform they can access to connect with each other at any time.
6) Higher Turnover
It’s rough to be in HR these days. Employee turnover is at its highest across the board. No matter the industry, turnover is always an issue. Losing employees, especially after such a short period of time, costs companies billions in lost productivity; and costs associated with recruiting, hiring and training. Here are a few sobering stats:
- 41% of workers over the age of 50 have been with the same employer for at least 20 years.
- 21% of millennials say they’ve changed jobs within the past year, more than 3 times the number of non-millennials.
- One in three workers will change jobs in the next six months.
- 47% of employees are likely to look for a new job in the next year.
Yet the news isn’t all bad. Millennials who feel they are at a great workplace are 25 times more likely to plan a long-term future there. So how do you make your workplace a “great” place to work?
According to the authority on the matter, Forbes, “Two-thirds of a company’s survey score is based on the results of the Trust Index Employee Survey…the survey asks questions related to employees’ attitudes about management’s credibility, overall job satisfaction, and camaraderie. The other third is based on responses to the Culture Audit, which includes detailed questions about pay and benefit programs and a series of open-ended questions about hiring practices, methods of internal communication, training….”
Camaraderie and internal communications are among the main topics that rank employers high in employee surveys. What is your organization doing to foster camaraderie and communication? They go hand in hand, you see. Email may help with communication, although clumsily, but it does nothing to build rapport. Employee communication software can help with both because it is purposely built to do just that – give people a platform on which to communicate, share ideas, build relationships and foster innovation.
Great Workplace Communication Starts With Pingboard
At Pingboard, we make sure your employees stay connected, engaged, and satisfied. Our software solution plugs into your HR and People Ops teams to improve visibility across your organization, deliver effective employee communication, and enhance the software tools you already have. Sign-up today to try our free 14-day trial.
Next up: Looking to revamp your org chart? Download The Definitive Guide to Org Charts
I am the Director of Growth at Pingboard. I consider myself an entrepreneur at heart. I love trying new things and taking educated risks on new ventures, both professionally and in my personal life. I bring that passion to work everyday where I enjoy helping others discover the power that Pingboard can unlock.