4 Ways to Avoid Miscommunication in the Workplace

Miscommunication between workers and managers has a direct impact on productivity, job satisfaction, and retention within a company. Poor communication can lead to a lack of team cohesion, wasted time and resources, lost revenue, damaged relationships, and low employee morale. Most conflict comes from misinterpreted communication, causing people to make assumptions instead of asking questions to sort it out.

Any kind of misunderstanding in the workplace, big or small, always has a negative effect on the company and sends a negative vibe throughout the employee team. I am going to share some of the common causes of miscommunication in the workplace and quick ways to resolve them before it damages your company culture. 

Assumptions

Assuming means to believe something without having proof. It happens when you see or hear something (usually through another person), and you decide to make it a fact instead of investing to see if it is actually “fake news.” We have all heard the wise saying, “When you assume, it makes an (ass) out of (u) and (me.)” Meaning, whatever drama that comes from the misinterpretation can leave the person who makes the assumption feeling foolish.

With five generations working together in the workplace, people are quicker to assume than to ask a question to gain clarity. Yet, how are you to find the truth unless you do some detective work? To understand what is being asked of you or what you just saw (or think you saw), you must be willing to questions to gain a clear understanding of what is right.  

Lack of understanding

Miscommunication can confuse employees and cause them to not understand what the priority and work on the wrong project. When instructions aren’t clear and employees make mistakes and poor decisions, the quality of work decreases, and other departments are affected. Lack of understanding can lead to criticism and blame when things go wrong, which then leads to a lack trust and confidence among co-workers. 

If you’re handing someone a specific task, or set of instructions, keep your speech clear and direct, leaving less room for confusion. Nowadays it easy to text them or record your voice and send it – to make sure the employees know the steps you want them to take.  If you’re the one receiving the information and are afraid you’ll look inadequate by asking questions, preference it with “just for clarity – I have a few questions,”  this adds an essence of professionalism instead of insecurity. 

Digital communication 

Emails, texts, and video conferencing create more opportunities for miscommunication or failed communication. Email and texting remove body language and vocal dynamics from the communication equation, reducing the odds the receiver will correctly interpret the message. One study found that 60 percent of people who receive an email will only read 50 percent of the message. Without the ability to listen to the tone of voice or read facial expressions, it’s near impossible to determine the mood or personality behind the message. Even an emoji can send the wrong message to a person who doesn’t know you well enough or understand your humor. 

A solution for digital miscommunication is to always stick to the point. Don’t beat around the bush and discuss topics that are not important that can create a distraction from the main focus. The message should be brief and precise so the person can read it, understand it, and move on to their other messages.  

Lack of Time

Being in a rush creates stress and causes our defenses to go up and our nervous system to shift into “fight” mode. When time is short, it becomes difficult to think clearly, and before the rational part of our brain has a chance to consider – we say things that we can’t take back. Unfortunately, words can deeply affect a person or start a rumor that was never intended. Yet in today’s fast-paced workplace, it is inevitable that at some point, you are going to say the wrong thing.

The best solution for time pressure is to practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is stopping to acknowledge the present moment and is proven to reduce stress, improve memory, and helps with anxiety. To practice mindfulness, stop whatever task you are doing, and focus entirely on your breath. Inhale through your nose for five seconds and then exhale through your mouth for five. Sixty seconds of controlled breathing may seem impossible to do when you’re in a hurry, but is well worth the 1 minute.  

In conclusion, communication is the key.Every problem stems from lack of communication and can only be cleared up by asking questions. Being willing to ask for clarity with tasks that seem confusing will limit mistakes and build relationships among co-workers. To deliver a message, learn to be crystal clear, so there isn’t room for misinterpretations. Implement clear communication and asking for clarity into your workplace culture, and you will see a decrease in office drama and an increase in productivity.