Modern businesses can segment messaging to target small customer groups or instantly deliver news to large, scattered workforces. However, these opportunities have not reduced the scope of challenges of business communication faced before. While organizations quickly learn the consequences of failing to communicate to customers and outside stakeholders effectively, ineffective internal communications may be trickier to spot until it is too late.
Personality Preference Difficulties in Business Communication
Employees may find it difficult to reconcile their communications preferences with those of their coworkers. An older worker might prefer to communicate by phone, for example, while his younger colleague relies on electronic communications. If the younger worker responds to a voicemail message by an e-mail instead of returning the call, the older worker may feel disrespected.
It is best to use the method that your counterpart prefers. If your contact in IT always responds to your emails quickly, but takes a long time to return a phone call, relaying your questions electronically is the more efficient solution. Over time, a team can overcome this gap and other difficulties in business communication by becoming comfortable with an internal communication method that works for all team members.
Communicating Bad News
Telling your boss that you have just lost a key account is not easy for most. Nor is it easy to relay the news to a longtime vendor that you are switching your business to her competitor. Often, having bad news to share causes people to delay communicating the information, especially when they worry about the potential repercussions of sharing the news.
Instead, experts suggest a multi-pronged communications strategy to overcome those difficulties in business communication. Prepare stakeholders for the bad news in advance. Deliver the news promptly and honestly, then mitigate it with possible solutions and any evident silver lining. You might say, for example, that you have several leads in mind to replace the lost business that would require less travel for your sales force.
Some employees may feel uncomfortable communicating frankly with their bosses because of their position, the company or their background. According to linguistics experts, women in particular may struggle with this.
Too Much, Or Not Enough
How much information to disseminate to employees and outside stakeholders is one of the constant challenges of business communication managers face. Scary news, like a reorganization, can lead to strong reactions if it seemingly comes out of the blue. Alerting individuals in one-on-one or smaller meetings can let a leader know who likely will object to the news, and what their reasons are.
But just like other challenges in communication skills, there are lots of ways to make an error when sharing information. A manager also can provide too much information if the conclusion to the message is vague or open-ended. Announcing that layoffs may be coming in the near future, for example, leads to anxiety and may cause key staffers to try to take other jobs. It also can decrease office productivity if employees spend their time gossiping and working on their resumes.
Challenges of Business Communication Can Prove Costly
Unlike workplace chatter, electronic communications leave a written record of what took place. A quick email can recap a conversation and provide a valuable confirmation in case there are questions later. However, maintaining records of e-mail traffic, chat software and other informal electronic workplace conversations can be a headache for those in IT — not to mention the legal team. Seemingly offhand conversations can prove costly. The U.S. Justice Department, for example, used chat room comments to help make its currency manipulation case against major banks like UBS, Citigroup and J.P. Morgan Chase.
Challenges in Communication Skills with Stakeholder Groups
Poor communication between a company and its stakeholders can cost the company tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands or potentially even millions of dollars. Gaps may occur when not all stakeholders have the same understanding of the project's benefits, or when the language used to deliver messages is unclear.
PMI suggests you tailor your communications to meet the needs of each stakeholder groups. A project proposal to redesign a website, for example, might focus on the high-level benefits when you meet with senior company leaders. It would use more technical language and specific data when it is presented to the people who will have to perform the work.