The Disadvantages of One-Way Communication

by Neil Kokemuller ; Updated September 26, 2017

One-way communication includes instances in which a business leader speaks or sends out messages to individuals, small groups or large groups of employees without input or response. While such directives sometimes are necessary, excessive one-way communication minimizes opportunities for valuable front line input and message feedback. It can also harm employee morale.

Loss of Input

The use of data and analytics to figure out what customers want is prominent, but some managers rely too much on data and not enough on people. Front line employees often are your most valuable resource in figuring out customer preferences. In retail settings, for instance, workers interact with customers on a daily basis. They see what makes customers happy and hear complaints about the things that don't. Rather than sending mass memos to stores or business units based solely on analytics, invite front line input to go along with your quantitative research.

Lack of Feedback

There are numerous instances in which one-way communication eliminates opportunities for important feedback. Employee evaluations should include two-way conversations rather than just one-way performance assessments, for example, according to the Robert Half company. In a traditional review, a manager shares scores and advise with employees. This scenario eliminates opportunities for the employee to assess his own performance and for the manager to gain insights on how to properly motivate him. In a work team with strong experts, a manager who applies only one-way communication will struggle to draw out new ideas and discussion among team members on the merits of those ideas.

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Harm Employee Morale

A major indirect pitfall of only using one-way communication is the potential for damaged employee morale. When workers don't have the ability to share insights or feedback, they may feel stifled, inhibited and unappreciated. A Business News Daily article noted, for instance, that workers who have input on the types of technology used in their jobs experience higher levels of morale. While some decisions and actions rely on a leader to assert and communicate one voice, there are many other ways in which you can invite employee to share. Doing so improves their sense of belonging and value, which ultimately helps with worker retention and productivity.

About the Author

Neil Kokemuller has been an active business, finance and education writer and content media website developer since 2007. He has been a college marketing professor since 2004. Kokemuller has additional professional experience in marketing, retail and small business. He holds a Master of Business Administration from Iowa State University.

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