Whether it's a manager adequately setting expectations, an employee effectively voicing concerns or peers working together to solve a problem, organizations thrive on great communication. While many managers and owners understand this, organizations continue to suffer from miscommunication. If you want to avoid big mistakes and organizational problems, it's important to know what major communication errors are common and how to avoid them.
Getting Lost in Translation
One communication problem is when words get lost in translation. Quite common in global companies, it can also occur any time two or more employees come from completely different backgrounds. For example, people who grew up in Western cultures are generally more comfortable with direct confrontation or emotional expression. On the other hand, people from certain other cultures may see these interactions as aggressive. Similarly, differences in language and dialect can hinder communication. Managers can encourage cross-cultural understanding and employ diversity training to pre-empt this problem.
Lack of Project Hierarchy
If you have ever heard someone say, "Wait, I thought you were working on that," in an office, you know how frustrating this communication problem can be. When there's no clear division of labor and nobody who is clearly in charge of a project, some pieces might slip through the cracks while you waste valuable time duplicating someone else's work. You and your team can avoid this issue by establishing a hierarchy for each project and clearly communicating who is responsible for what deliverables.
Most people have had a co-worker who elicits strong emotions, whether positive or negative. While it's natural that some people will get along better than others, it's important not to let feelings like this get in the way of effective communication. While team-building exercises may be a solution, not everyone likes this method. If your team is not receptive to group activities, you can try providing training on subjects such as emotional intelligence, interpersonal relationships and conflict resolution.
Managers should be leaders, but that doesn't mean they should run a one-person show. Effective communication requires two-way conversations. It's up to the manager to provide the kind of environment in which employees feel comfortable respectfully speaking their minds. Great leaders not only say that they want employees to speak up, but they also listen when employees have something to say. Furthermore, you can learn to read between the lines and ask questions that deepen the conversation.
Perhaps the most important thing a manager can convey is the overarching goal of the organization and the project at hand. Being open about the end goal not only allows employees to feel like they are part of something bigger, but it also opens the doors to new ideas that may help.