In the rush of the working day, most of us communicate instinctively, without too much thought. Yet expert communication practices are one of the building blocks of any successful business. Poor team communication will negatively impact everything you care about, from employee morale to your bottom line.
With the recent boom in remote working due to the pandemic, mastering the art of communicating effectively with employees is fraught with new challenges but no less paramount.
8 Warning Signs of Poor Team Communication That Could Be Holding You Back
Companies thrive when people have access to the information they need. Where a healthy atmosphere of collaboration reigns, their ideas and knowledge flow freely. But when companies fail to perceive the signs that their team communication practices are wanting, problems ensue. Read on and recognize how you could be mishandling your team communication processes.
1. A Little Less Communication
The most obvious sign of poor team communication is, well, poor team communication. When team members are in the loop about their work, they have clear expectations and are more likely to respond appropriately to situations.
When communication flags or, worse, when workers are left to their own devices, it can gnaw away at all-important workplace trust. If your team isn’t checking in on one another throughout the day at reasonably regular intervals, it could be a sign that they aren’t as comfortable communicating as they should be.
Fix: Schedule weekly one-to-ones to ensure no one is falling through the cracks.
2. Too Much of a Good Thing
That said, finding that happy medium is crucial, and too much communication can be just as symptomatic of unskillful practices.
Inundation of messages, for example, can indicate a communication gap elsewhere. Perhaps someone hasn’t fully understood their brief, or they feel frustrated or ignored. Strike a good balance when it comes to scheduling meetings, too, so that staff don’t wind up feeling micromanaged and lose their sense of purpose.
3. Missing Deadlines
Your team will miss deadlines from time to time due to unforeseen circumstances. However, a chronic failure to complete tasks speaks to communication having gone awry. Perhaps you’ve introduced a digital workforce to take care of unappealing tasks and freed up your team to maximise their human talents. But if work isn’t being well communicated, team projects will still fail to come off on time.
Fix: Ensure you have assigned tasks proportionately to avoid cognitive overload, parcel out responsibilities clearly, and assign a point person for every deliverable to avoid projects falling between the lines.
4. Misaligned Priorities
If you suddenly find, upon nearing a deadline, that your priorities have diverged from your employees’ to-do lists? Again, it’s typically a sign of a costly communication breakdown. Such misalignment is easily corrected by communicating priorities across teams and departments in the first instance and updating employees on workflows.
And, you can break down silos with new technology. For example, use a conference call line to conduct online meetings, and share screens while taking employees through complex processes with visuals.
Bonus: Such knowledge sharing and clear communication can also prevent inefficient duplication and lots of hard work going to waste.
5. Finished Product Falls Short
A substandard finished product is usually a symptom of ineffective team communication somewhere. Perhaps you haven’t outlined your expectations adequately, or your employee hasn’t asked enough clarifying questions.
But notice when the product falls short and reflect. Do your part to communicate to your employees the standards you expect, to ensure they’re well-positioned to excel.
Bonus: Improved communication boosts transparency and agency, and allows you to ascertain where things went wrong.
6. Low Morale
Low office morale often correlates with a culture of unskillful communication. Before you know it, poor communication of new or last-minute changes can lead to people feeling overwhelmed or disrespected and, ultimately, bad results.
For example, imagine you’re a company implementing new technology such as an interactive voice response (IVR) system. Make sure you consult your customer experience experts who are, after all, already on the front lines, and involve them in the installation process.
Having healthy communication channels in place does wonders. It can preempt situations where actions with otherwise innocuous explanations become freighted with personal or emotional motives.
Build in expectations of respectful collaboration and cultivate trust, before employee attitudes harden into wariness of people in different teams, for example. An effective communication strategy aims to take emotion out of the equation.
Bonus: Reduce the potential for a high turnover rate.
7. Lack of Conflict?
Too much agreement, however, can be just as dysfunctional. Employees withdrawing from giving input in meetings can also be a symptom that something is wrong. They could be lacking in motivation or interest, or maybe don’t feel comfortable speaking up. Consider going round-robin, using ice-breakers ,and being mindful of factors like introversion, to ensure everyone gets a turn to take part.
Blaming others or defensiveness often indicates an endemic lack of workplace trust and psychological safety.
Fix: Encourage workers to internalize a culture of support and community-mindedness, where members share best practices and provide each other with a safe and inclusive environment to voice frustrations.
8. The Medium is Just as Important as The Message
Last, pay attention to how you’re having conversations and what’s being communicated that way. This has only grown in salience during the pandemic, with more people having to find time to schedule chats around work-from-home complications.
So, having chats around how you handle communication, and being flexible, can alleviate a lot of misunderstanding. Agreeing on the most suitable medium and knowing how to communicate can be just as important as what you’re saying.
Fix: Setting communication norms will improve things no end.
All Happy Teams Are Alike; Each Unhappy Team is Unhappy in Its Own Way
The antidote to the heightened stress of these current times is cultivating greater connections with your team. And having a happy team is vital when people need to reach out for help. Follow the signs we’ve laid out here as a guide to getting your communication right.