Effective communication in the workplace helps to decrease misunderstandings, increase productivity and establish trust with colleagues. In order to ensure that you and those in your workplace are communicating successfully, it’s important to identify ineffective ways to communicate so you can actively avoid them.
Bullying and Intimidating Colleagues
Bullying isn’t limited to the school yard. In a business environment, employees can come across instances of bullying with each other and with customers and external stakeholders like partners and investors. Bullying can be subtle, such as intimidating a colleague with an unnecessarily firm tone of voice. It can also be more direct, such as making threats or pressuring colleagues to do something they are not comfortable doing.
If you and a colleague are having a small disagreement over email about how to proceed on a project, for example, adding your colleague’s manager to the email chain can be seen as a form of intimidation. This shows your colleague that you’re escalating the issue to his superior. Bullying and intimidation are ineffective communication techniques that result in conflict and distrust in the workplace.
Taking Inefficient Routes
Effective communication requires employees to use the right method at the right time. Businesses have many modes of communication, including email, phone, instant messaging, video conferencing and in-person communication. Each communication technique is best used for specific kinds of communication. For example, instant messaging is best used for quick questions or discussions that are time sensitive, whereas in-person meetings are better for detailed issues that require input from multiple parties.
Ineffective communication examples include using the wrong communication method. This creates inefficiency and frustrations among colleagues. For example, if you need to gather input from an entire department, instant messaging will not be an effective way to communicate. Similarly, if you want to ask a colleague who sits next to you a quick question, it’s likely faster to walk over to her desk than to send her an email.
Using Overly Technical Terms and Jargon
Communication barriers exist when people use highly technical language and industry jargon in conversations with people who do not understand those words. In order for communication to be effective, all the people involved need to have a similar understanding of the language that is being used in the conversation.
For example, if you’re explaining a software development concept to a marketing colleague who has no knowledge of that area, he will likely not be able to understand the conversation if you use technical language. However, if you speak in plain English and demonstrate your points using common words, your colleague is much more likely to digest the message.
Not Paying Attention to Conversations or Emails
Lack of focus and lack of attention to detail are ineffective communication techniques often found in the workplace. Employees who multitask during communication may not fully grasp the message that is being sent to them. For example, if you’re on a phone meeting and the person with whom you’re speaking is busy checking her emails, she may not hear the conversation or only hear parts of it.
When reading a detailed email, employees may only respond to one part of the question and miss the rest of the email entirely. It’s critical to focus on the communication so you can ensure you’re hearing and digesting the full message. Otherwise, you may waste your colleague’s time and cause frustration.
Replace Ineffective Ways to Communicate
When you notice ineffective communication techniques taking place at work, it’s best to identify them with colleagues so you can work toward a solution. Continuing to communicate ineffectively may reduce productivity at work, resulting in missed deadlines or poor sales results.
Once you’ve identified the issue, institute some communication best practices so employees have an understanding of how to properly interact with their colleagues at work. Develop communication guidelines and provide employees with the tools and resources they need to communicate effectively.
Anam Ahmed is a Toronto-based writer and editor with over a decade of experience helping small businesses and entrepreneurs reach new heights. She has experience ghostwriting and editing business books, especially those in the "For Dummies" series, in addition to writing and editing web content for the brand. Anam works as a marketing strategist and copywriter, collaborating with everyone from Fortune 500 companies to start-ups, lifestyle bloggers to professional athletes. As a small business owner herself, she is well-versed in what it takes to run and market a small business. Anam earned an M.A. from the University of Toronto and a B.A.H. from Queen's University. Learn more at www.anamahmed.ca.