When WFH first began, we’ve found that leaders made a common mistake to assume that workplace miscommunication can be reduced as long as structures, tools and channels are set in place.

Yet, even though no one intends to miscommunicate, it still happens at a very high cost to businesses.

As leaders, workplace miscommunications erodes trust, confidence and credibility.
As leaders, workplace miscommunications erodes trust, confidence and credibility.

The cost of workplace miscommunication

This study on 4,000 employees found that almost half (46%) were unsure of what was being asked of them by their line manager when given tasks, and over a third (37%) experienced this uncertainty between one and three times a day.

This is an estimated 40 minutes of wasted time per day, the equivalent of 83 employees in a company of 1,000 doing nothing every day.

As leaders, workplace miscommunications erodes trust, confidence and credibility.

Moreover, if it’s true that leaders spend up to 80% of their workday communicating, how do you make sure you’re doing it right?

1 – It’s not about what you say. It’s why.

Many focus on content and overlook the importance of context.

Be mindful that assumptions lead to miscommunication. If you’re presenting new information, consider why you’re saying it, to whom, and the desired outcome from your conversation.

Many overlook the importance of taking time to consider the context. In presenting a monthly report, think that a sales manager and a marketing manager might interpret success differently.

Establishing the context of your presentation or statement and tailoring it to different audiences helps promote clarity, reduces ambiguity and vague language.

It also helps to think through the desired outcome from a meeting: if it requires action, further alignment, collaboration, or problem-solving.

2 – It’s not about what you say. It’s how.

We often over-estimate the importance of talking and under-estimate the time in reading and writing.

In choosing the right channel and being explicit about the function of email communications, for example, a manager can reduce inefficiencies and redundant workplace communications.

Choosing the right channel and being explicit about its functions reduce inefficiencies and redundant communications.

Explicitly saying, “We will only communicate urgent customer support requests by text, and if I don’t respond within 30 minutes, you can follow up with a call” helps establish urgency, purpose and effectiveness.

3 – It’s not about what you say. We forget to listen.

Active listening in the age of remote workplaces has been a challenge. It’s convenient to assume silence as comprehension, consensus, or compliance.

Being attuned to every slight inflexion of voice and hesitation in a reply is a skill. Yet, leaders can be more attuned by being intentional and frequent in this practice.

Being present doesn’t mean hogging the airtime by just talking.

The key to being an active listener is present, even though it’s an open secret that many people attend virtual meetings while multitasking.

Being mindful that being present doesn’t mean hogging the airtime by just talking; managers can encourage this by leading by example.

Simply put, it is about coming to every meeting mentally present, receiving new information with an open mind, encouraging and acknowledging different points of discussion.

4 – Communication is not a competition!

A big part of active listening is withholding comment or opinion when listening to the speaker and making thoughtful, necessary responses.

When communication becomes a competition, nobody wins – except for your ego.

This needs to be explicit because communication becomes counterproductive when it becomes a battle of opinions.

If the purpose of a conversation is to come to an action, solution or an alignment, suppress the urge to top on the conversation by offering a point of view. When communication becomes a competition, nobody wins – except for your ego.

While some might enjoy the turn of conversation, this can become a distraction. If you’re witnessing such a conversation, reset the agenda and politely offer to park the topic for another day.

5 – Allocate time for others to respond. Get and give feedback.

We like to think that we cover all bases by ending meetings with, “does anyone have any feedback, comments, suggestions?”

This is an attempt at eliciting broad request for feedback, but this approach lacks specificity.

Broadly asking for “feedback, comments, suggestions” lacks specificity.

Your stakeholders might not have feedback on broad strategic planning immediately.

Yet, you can prompt feedback by requesting specificity and encourage discussion. An example: “With these goals set in place, Jane, how do you think this affects your role as a project manager?”

Another pitfall in workplace miscommunication is discerning what vital feedback to get and give.

A project sponsor, for example, will expect regular feedback on critical status updates, but not the day to day operations. Yet, if you miss a project deadline, it would be essential to communicate a failure in your day-to-day operations.

Do resignation letters come as a shock to you? Read about the 3 Red Flags Of A Disengaged Employe All Managers Should Know.

Find out more about our programmes on Inspiring Purposeful Action, or Purposeful Communication by contacting e-mail: [email protected]