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Consequences of a Lack of Communication in the Workplace

Communication is a skill at the root of all relationships. Poor communication in the workplace is the single biggest problem in companies wasting enormous time and resources. It is a morale buster for employees and high for leaders in workplace concerns.

Most will agree that good communication is essential for all healthy relationships both personal and professional. Therefore, effective communication is a crucial part of the health of a company culture.

Estimated reading time: 4.5 minutes

Good communication builds strong temas

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Let's dive in
What Is Communication?
What Is a Lack of Communication?
Consequences of a Lack of Communication in the Workplace
Causes for a Lack of Communication
What Are the Qualities of Effective Communication?
Leaders' Responsibility for Clear Communication
Employees' Responsibility for Effective Communication
ALL Are Responsible for Communication to Be...
6 Examples of Negative Communications with Solutions
Improper Communication Channels Resulting in Communication Breakdowns
Good Communication Supports a Collaborative and Effective Team Environment
Frequently Asked Questions


What Is Communication?

Communication is the process where there is an exchange of information between individuals through a common system of symbols, signs, or behavior. Communication includes words, body language, and expressions through different mediums: face-to-face contact, phone or video calls, or written communication such as memos, emails, chats, or texts.

Each method presents opportunities for breakdown and miscommunication. And in today's business, remote employees add a whole different set of challenges for companies.

The biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place. Quote by George Bernard Shaw
When clear communication does not occur, or if what you are trying to communicate is missed altogether or misunderstood, there can be significant consequences to a business. Team communication requires all team members to be on the same page for mutual understanding to occur.

A lack of communication skills is often the culprit, and at times, it is as simple as talking without self-regulating or even thinking. At other times, clear communication is distorted by our beliefs, biases, and perspectives.

What Is a Lack of Communication?

Simply put, a lack of communication omits essential information or communicates unclearly or ineffectively.

Each party in a broken communication scenario may experience intensified emotions and confusion while forming assumptions and fabricated stories about the other party or the situation.

Good workplace communication is vital. To improve communication, it's particularly crucial that communication problems are handled swiftly. Have you ever had a conflict with a co-worker that isn't resolved and hangs over you like a black cloud?

Consequences of a Lack of Communication in the Workplace

Some direct consequences of poor communication in the workplace for leaders and teams are:

  • Strained employee relationships
  • Ineffective project development and work habits
  • Employees with low morale
  • Decreased employee engagement
  • Lack of respect for each other or management
  • Gossip and backbiting
  • Workplace conflict
  • High turnover; higher employee dissatisfaction
  • Wasted time and resources
  • Increased workplace conflict
  • Communication issues
  • Higher employee retention

As shared by SHRM, the Society for Human Resource Management, in “The Cost of Poor Communications,” a survey of 400 companies with 100,000 employees each cited an average loss per company of $62.4 million per year because of inadequate communication to and between employees. That number is per company!

Get serious about repatterning bad communication and leadership habits with this brain-based course.

Woman working on a timely project

Causes for a Lack of Communication in the Workplace

There are many ways in a company as to why there is a lack of communication. Sometimes, it's as simple as overwhelmed managers who delay giving crucial information to employees; or sometimes micromanagement.

Other times, the communication breakdown results from a cluster of hurtful interactions that have caused an unsafe culture where employees keep their input close to the chest—with armor!

Below are some causes of poor communication that are deterrents to effective teams:

  • Reactive, critical, overworked managers
  • Poor workplace communication leads to mistakes and wasted time
  • Autocratic leadership
  • Micromanaging managers
  • Public humiliation of employees
  • Sarcasm and putdowns in meetings
  • Lack of communication skills
  • Emotional dysregulation
  • Little to no responsiveness from leaders
  • Empty human resources promises

Generally speaking, the quality of communication is promoted foremost by the owners and leaders. When a leader has great communication skills, employee engagement is typically high. When employees are fully engaged, they will likely work harder and smarter in ways that drive positive results, helping your company realize its full potential. 

So if leaders have poor communication skills, it will filter down through the employees and teams. Leaders' communication mistakes backfire. One common error is when they do and say things that don't match what they expect from employees. This dissonance creates major discouragement among teams and employees, and internal communications suffer. Employees will generally have a harder time meeting expectations when there is misalignment.

The effects of poor communication are myriad. If you've ever been on a team with missed deadlines or where people withhold information, dominate discussions, or give confusing instructions, you know firsthand how frustrating ineffective communication is.

For an in-depth look at ways to increase emotional intelligence in the workplace, check out our article: "27 Best Ways to Raise Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace."

What Are the Qualities of Effective Communication?

So, we've talked about all the ways communication breaks down and how poor communication or a lack of communication wreaks havoc on company culture. But what are the essential ingredients of effective communication? What needs to be present to ensure clear communication? Let's list some of the most important.

Leaders' Responsibility to Clear Communication

  • Leaders have an open-door policy to answer questions.
  • Leaders and managers are responsive to the input of employees.
  • Clear expectations are given to employees.
  • Encourages and builds trust.
  • Communicate with empathy and emotional intelligence.
  • The information conveyed is actionable.
  • Effective feedback is given for improvement.
  • Managers and leaders reinforce company values.
  • Resolve conflicts swiftly.
  • Recognize and honor differing communication styles.
  • Uphold respect for diversity.
  • Face-to-face communication is regular.

Employees' Responsibility to Effective Communication

  • Don't waste anyone's time with idle chatter.
  • Make sure all the relevant details are given.
  • The information is accurate.
  • Speak up when misunderstood or feel like you're unheard
  • Ask intelligent questions.
  • Confirm priorities.
  • Respect the space and concentration of fellow workers.
  • Strive for the right timing for communication.
  • Communication between staff members is collaborative and helpful.
  • Give leadership complete information for decision-making.

ALL Are Responsible for Communications to Be:

  • Respectful and confident.
  • Friendly and welcoming.
  • Regulate emotions so communication is receivable.
  • Stick to facts instead of stories and exaggerations.
  • Use the correct communication channel.
  • Be your best to build effective teams.
  • Talk to the right person about any given topic.
  • Use attentive or active listening.
  • Empathy is present as needed.
  • Interactions are drama-free.
  • Intentional and clear in the outcome you want.

6 Examples of Poor Communication with Solutions

Here are some examples of scenarios that represent poor communication and a lack of communication skills. Although they may seem minor, when added up over a day or week, they deteriorate the fabric, in which effective communication is woven.

Scenario #1: Disregarding emails from a team member or neglecting adequate project descriptions when you collaborate on a project together, especially when it’s a high priority or with a tight timeline.

Try this instead: Coordinate with team members to keep a project flowing. If emailing is not the best way for team members to coordinate with you, work together to establish the best communication methods. Then respond expediently according to priorities. Take time to provide thorough details that allow others to be successful.

Scenario #2: Hurrying a team member on a phone call because you’re on a tight timeline. 

Try this instead: Let your team member know that you are on a tight timeline and ask if you can set up a different time to discuss the reason for their call. Agree on a time and how you will reach each other. This consideration takes only a minute, yet allows you to give a team member your full attention and keep yourself on track with your project. Taking that minute also helps your co-worker feel valued. Then, don't answer the phone and put a "do not disturb" message in play when possible.

Scenario #3: Sending a text to a co-worker that you’re running late for an important meeting but not supplying an ETA. Or trying to text your two cents to someone in the meeting because you're not there.

Try this instead: Let your co-worker know to go ahead with the meeting without you if you’re going to be more than five minutes late for the meeting. If your lateness happens to extend beyond five minutes, providing a little more information ahead of time helps your co-worker know how to proceed and what to expect on your arrival. It is disrespectful to others who are on time for a meeting (and a waste of time) to wait for someone late.

Good communication means being present and using active listening, even on virtual calls.Scenario #4: Smiling and nodding in a virtual meeting when you disagree with your team’s discussion or decision.

Try this instead: Speak up and share your perspective; you may hold a vital piece of the puzzle. A team must be on the same page to be an effective team. It is important to be able to speak up as a valuable team member. If it is inappropriate to state your objections in a virtual meeting (i.e., there’s not enough time to convey your ideas adequately), request a follow-up meeting without derailing the facilitator or leader.

Scenario #5: Reprimanding a new employee for incorrect or incomplete work even though the employee was improperly trained.

Try this instead: Explain to the employee the correct process and how to complete tasks accurately and completely. Find out where the breakdown was in communication. If the error didn't occur in communication, ensure that the person gets adequate training moving forward. Then, set up a procedure to handle employee training more thoroughly in the future.

Scenario #6: Allowing a co-worker or manager to disrupt your focus and waste your time with banter irrelevant to the project at hand, even while you sizzle with frustration and resentment.

Try this instead: Let them know that you have a very full day with some tight timelines and need to stay focused. A co-worker or manager may not realize their talking is disruptive to your work. Be sure to set a boundary respectfully before you get frustrated.

In each of the above examples, neither party benefits from the experience. In some of these situations, there was an expectation that wasn't communicated. Poor communication does not foster positive working relationships or an effective team—it hinders productivity and wastes time and resources. Each situation is open for interpretation without enough information leaving loose ends for all parties involved.

Related Reading:  "The Most Grievous Mistake in Communication."

Business is only as good as its communicationImproper Communication Channels Often Result in Communication Breakdowns

Another overlooked time-waster and obstacle to effective communication is using improper channels to communicate. When done inefficiently, the inattention to this area wastes time and decreases productivity which translates to lost profit. Haphazardly choosing a channel or method of communication ill-fit for situations (just because it may be convenient) has a similar result to miscommunications or missing information.

Here are some examples:

  • Sending an email on an urgent topic where a prompt response is needed; a phone call or an in-person are better channels to handle the situation quickly.

  • Scheduling an hour-long meeting with six people to share information on a project (1 hour x 6 people = 6 hours). Instead, assess if the information is better shared in a concise email (or on a project platform, i.e., Basecamp) and would be a better use of everyone’s time. This way, each person has written information at their fingertips to refer to and can read it when convenient.
             However, sometimes allowing people to meet in person is the right choice, especially when asking questions, and a creative interaction results in saving time and benefiting the project's quality.

  • A long string of group texting between co-workers complaining about a manager doesn’t affect the situation positively. Instead, take the issue to the manager in person, and when possible, include all people involved. Set up enough time for a meaningful conversation and a resolution.

The above examples of improper channels used to communicate can result in unnecessary wasted time. The key is to ask yourself, "What is the most effective way to communicate in this situation?" The answer will depend on the priorities, how urgent the matter is, and the people involved.

Related Reading: "Why Is Communication Important in the Workplace?"

Get this effective communication and leadership course today!

Good Communication Supports a Collaborative and Effective Team Environment

Effective communication is crucial for building relationships and protecting the flow of day-to-day business. A workplace with effective, timely, and properly used communication channels fosters a culture of teamwork. Therefore, good communication will support clearly defined roles, timely solutions to problems, increased employee morale, higher retention, and augmented profits.

Heartmanity's executive coaches and trainers are highly skilled and effective in teaching communication skills to leaders and teams. Are you ready to bring skills, purpose, and clarity to your team’s communication?

Frequently Asked Questions:

What is an example of a lack of communication in the workplace?

An example would be assigning an employee a project without adequate information, priority or a timeline in which to complete the work. This problem is more frequent than you would imagine.

Another example would be when two employees have a run-in with each other and never resolve the conflict. So there is a silence between them that can create an uneasy environment to work in. They can even go as far as withholding information to sabotage the other employee.

What are common issues that cause barriers when communicating?

One of the most common communication barriers is heightened negative emotions, such as frustration, anger, or jealousy that the person doesn't regulate. When a person is feeling intense emotions, they are unable to communicate clearly and can be disrespectful in their reactions.

Another barrier is employees not asking questions because they're afraid of being perceived as ill-equipped at their jobs. This unwillingness to admit they need more information or that the instructions were unclear causes many communication issues. Project managers usually assume that the employee has what they need since they haven't spoken up. This glitch can result in wasted time, duplication of efforts, mistakes, or the project's success being compromised.

A third issue is cognitive bias. We all have biases that cause mishaps and distortions in our conclusions. These biases are always in play; some create more problems in communication than others.

A fourth issue in communication that acts as a barrier for people to connect authentically and professionally is workplace drama. This type of communication is unproductive and wastes enormous time in companies. An example would be gossiping or chatting about another employee unkindly. This behavior promotes an unsafe workplace and derails productivity. It can also be an employee venting or complaining about a manager or a fellow worker.

These barriers can be eliminated with emotional intelligence training. Emotional intelligence skills give the ability to communicate effectively and build thriving relationships and teams.

Contact Heartmanity today for customized emotional intelligence training for your leaders and teams. Or bring effective communication to your company by learning how to lead authentically with this online course.

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Jennifer A. Williams / Heartmanity for BusinessJennifer A. Williams / Heartmanity for Business
Jennifer, the Heartmanity founder, is an Executive Coach and Relationship Strategist. Her decades of expertise in training leaders and teams give her amazing insights. Jennifer's primary focuses are authentic leadership, effective communication, and emotional intelligence in the workplace. Jennifer teaches a holistic approach, specializing in transforming unproductive behaviors into emotionally intelligent actions, which creates thriving work relationships and catapults a company to success.

Posted in Business and Leadership

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