Communication in business covers all the information being passed within a company, as well as the communication between that company's employees and customers, or between the company's employees and other companies. Good communication can help a firm increase market share and competitiveness, improve customer service and satisfaction, and keep employees happy at the company. Bad communication, on the other hand, can be destructive.
Bad communication in business often takes the form of writing that uses too many big words and convoluted sentence structure to convey a simple point. One example is that quoted by communication training consultant Dianna Booher of a Fortune 500 company manager who issued a 40-word, nearly incomprehensible sentence just to say he was the training director.
Bad business communication exists when companies have no mechanism in place to handle special orders from its customers. Without communication from management to the sales and customer service staffs on how to handle such situations, and without good communication with the customers involved, such a company is likely to lose customers.
In 2006, Radio Shack laid off 400 workers by email with no notice. Here the mode of communication was poorly chosen, as email is not appropriate for a layoff notice. In addition, the notice itself was overwritten and hard to follow.
PowerPoint presentations are prone to bad communication because of the nature of the medium. It's so easy to create a PowerPoint that people end up using more slides than they need, packing the slides with text so they can't be followed, and distracting the audience from what the presenter is actually saying. In addition, it hinders the opportunities for spontaneous conversation about the point at hand, thus hampering the communication it was intended to foster.
One hallmark of bad communication is its one-sidedness, as happens when people contact their business associates only when they want a favor of some kind, such as when they're job hunting or need some ideas. When such people don't return telephone calls or emails at other times, they reinforce the weakness of their communication skills.
In a volatile business environment, it's important to make sure that information about sensitive subjects, such as layoffs, is communicated directly and clearly. Allowing rumors to circulate unchecked and unconfirmed will only result in a drop in employee morale, as well as in the possibility that some employees will move to another company in advance of the actual layoff announcement.
A prime example of bad communication occurred in 2001 at medical software company the Cerner Corporation, where the CEO sent an angry email to the entire team berating staff members for coming in late and leaving early, and threatened to take revenge by taking away benefits. The email was posted on the Internet, resulting in a huge drop in the company's stock price.
Bad business communication often occurs when one person fails to return telephone calls or emails, and especially when he fails to say thank you for favors done or to report back when expected to do so.