Examples of Bad Communication at Work
Poor communication in the workplace includes lack of communication, incorrect messaging, incomplete directions and a host of other problems related to speaking, writing and listening. A review of common examples of poor workplace communications can help you take steps to strengthen your ability to stay on the same page with your managers, employees and suppliers to avoid problems and maximize productivity.
You tell an employee you need an important set of data by Friday, and the employee responds that she will have no problem getting you exactly what you need by Friday. On its surface, this seems like an example of good communication. However, the employee might think she has until 5 p.m. to deliver the data when you actually need it Friday morning in order to make the deadline your supplier gave you to deliver an order you need. Friday at 10 a.m., you discover the employee hasn’t started working on it, thinking she could deliver it anytime during the day. You now miss your deadline with your supplier, who can’t give you the materials you need to fill an order due next Tuesday. Always give detailed deadlines whenever you communicate a need. In addition, make a note to schedule a pre-deadline check-in to contact an employee or vendor to make sure everything is on track.
Communicating without a deadline is one example of not providing necessary specifics in communication. Any important communication you make should include a review of the who, what, where, when, how and why to avoid miscommunication, delivery of poor work, work not delivered, breach of contract or a contract being made void.
Just because you communicate doesn’t mean your peer received or understood your message. Email can be an especially risky way to communicate if you rely on the fact that you sent your message to mean your recipient got it. Your message might end up in a spam file, fail to send correctly or get buried and lost under 50 other messages. Always ask for a response, or make a follow-up confirmation call when you send an important letter or email.
It’s not uncommon to chat with employees as you pass them in the hallway, adding, “By the way, I need you to …” While you might be giving your employee a direct order or specific task, complete with detailed deadline, that employee might be headed out the door, into another meeting or find his phone is ringing when he enters his office. Anytime you pass important information in the hallway, at lunch, in a restroom or anywhere outside an office, follow up.
You can give your employees the impression that you find their work is primarily sub-par if you only point out negatives or start a project report with criticism. Imagine a TV weather person who starts a broadcast with, “There’s a 20 percent chance of rain today.” The impression viewers might get is that they better plan on bringing an umbrella to work, even though the weather is likely to be nice. When your employees finish a job or deliver a project, look for ways to emphasize your satisfaction if you’re primarily pleased with their work. It even might be a good idea to respond positively during your first interaction after a project is delivered, and then follow up the next day with your critiques.