In a workplace filled with unique characters, misunderstandings, and communication, failures are bound to happen from time to time. We are, after all, humans with emotions and not data driven robots.
However, taking the time to specifically work on workplace and team communication skills will not only help avoid hurt feelings and slow burning resentments, but it will also help build the rapport needed to increase overall productivity, things that are very important in creating a solid team that gets the work done.
This all sounds reasonable enough, but according to a Clear Company study, 86% of employees and executives cited a lack of collaboration or ineffective communications for workplace failures. So just what is going wrong, and, more importantly, how can it all be put right? Here is a look at nine things that go wrong in internal communications that must be rectified before any team can work at their best.
Failure to Establish a Foundation for Workplace Relationships
If an employee does not trust their co-workers, or worse still their boss, they are far less likely to speak up when problems begin to arise. Trust can only even begin to be built if there is some form of rapport in place. Far too many employers remain aloof from their employees, meaning that the only things they know about the boss – and the boss knows about them – come from the highly untrustworthy office grapevine.
Beginning to establish a better rapport between supervisors and subordinates is not difficult. Doing so can be as simple as organizing a simple ‘no shop talk allowed’ team lich or a meet up for Friday night drinks. On a daily basis, the addition of a ping pong table in the lunchroom, or a free to use video games console can be excellent icebreakers and team building tools.
Through these simple activities that break down perceived divisions between employees and management, both sides can discover far more about each other and the trust-building can begin in earnest.
Failing to Prove Trustworthiness with Your Actions
Going back to trust again – it’s a biggie – according to the American Psychological Association, 25% of employees don’t trust their employer, especially when it comes time for them to make good on their promises. A lack of trust can be devastating to an employer, especially as 48% of those surveyed by the APA cited it as their reason to look for another job.
All the rapport building sessions in the world are not going to help if you do not follow up on what you said you would do. Employees need to know that they can trust their employer to lead, remain calm and collected in crisis – rather than fly off the handle and scream at everyone – and help the team solve any issues that arise effectively.
Whatever a manager or team leader’s personal communication style, treating employees with respect is also essential to building a team that works. According to a study conducted by the Harvard Business Review, employees who feel respected by their superiors are 55 percent more engaged, which translates into more efficient and effective output.
The way that an individual chooses to try and convey the respect and trust their employees are seeking from them will vary. What should not vary however is their commitment to learning how to do so effectively and then implementing the strategies they find suit them every time.
Whatever else you do, excellent and open communication is crucial in the development of trust; employees must understand the company’s vision and its plan to achieve it. This type of communication includes sharing information (including negative information), which should not be minimized. Employees should be considered and treated as equals in the company to foster a sense of community, and all ideas should be encouraged and considered.
Jumping to Conclusions
If Sally is failing to get her work done on time, or seems to take longer than her peers to get things done, it may seem like logical to assume that she either isn’t cut out for work after all – despite her stellar resume and a promising start – or she just doesn’t care enough about the job to make a real effort.
Jumping to such quick conclusions can be unfair to both sides. Sally may be having difficulties that she hasn’t mentioned and all it may take is a calm, private and non-judgmental conversation to begin to determine what is really going on.
Without taking the time to organise that simple initial meeting, an employer may be losing a great employee who just needed a nudge in the right direction, and that would be a terrible shame for everyone involved. Even if the issues involved turn out to be more complex the fact that ‘the boss’ made an effort to help will be taken as a positive not just by the individual but by the team as a whole as well.
Failing to Define Clear Team Roles
For any team to succeed, the roles that teammates are supposed to take on must be clearly defined, and a failure to do so will almost always result in failure if not near chaos. It is crucial that, right from the outset, everyone understands who is supposed to do what, who the troubleshooters are, who the decision makers are and exactly what channels the project will be expected to go through before it can be considered completed.
To help to achieve all of this successfully, consider following these basic steps:
- Determine, as far as possible, the exact desired outcome of the project. If you don’t know, you need to find out before instructing anyone else in how to proceed.
- Clearly map out the actionable steps that will be needed to achieve the project’s goals. And do so formally, in written form, so that nothing is missed and nothing is misunderstood.
- Determine which team members will manage each individual step and who will assist them in doing so. Again, provide this information in visual, written form to ensure everyone is on the same page.
- Provide clear instruction and expectations about how the work is to be completed, by when, and who will be approving the completion of each step. It should also be made clear who can be turned to if things begin to go awry.
Failing to Keep Workflow Transparent
This point goes hand in hand with the previous one. For any project to work everyone on the team needs to understand the way the work is supposed to flow throughout. After the initial design is complete is it up to Frank or Bob to make sure it gets to the next person in the approval chain? Who is that person? How long does the team have to get it to them?
If workflows are not clearly defined miscommunications, panic and even argument are likely to occur. Setting out a formal plan, one easily accessible by everyone involved, is therefore a must every time.
Failure to Account for Possible Communication Breakdowns
In an increasingly digital world there are dozens of ways that team members can stay in touch on a daily basis, but what method works for one person may not be the best thing for another. For example, there are those who think that Slack is the best thing sliced bread, but others are annoyed by it and its pings and nudges, find it too cumbersome and would much prefer to communicate via simple emails. However, if Joe fails to answer his Slack ping because he does not like to, and waits for an email that never comes instead, the whole project could unravel very quickly.
While taking note of these individual preferences, and trying to accommodate them, might be a nice gesture, doing so is rarely practical or conducive to a project – or a team’s success. Everyone needs to be on the same page, at all times. To achieve this, a central communications platform needs to be put in place.
Just which tool is used is something for the individual organisation to decide. Asana or Slack may be adequate for small teams, while larger concerns should consider a richer featured offering such as the talkspirit branded enterprise social network solution. Whatever choice is made it then needs to be made clear to all that this is way to communicate digitally at all times.
Failure to Talk Face to Face
In a busy world the tendency to limit communications to the digital world is something we all increasingly do. WhatsApp, email, texting, and other digital communications platforms are all great, easy ways to communicate without disrupting everyone’s day too much. There are times however, when a good old-fashioned sit down, face to face meeting is called for.
While minor decisions can be made electronically any big ones, the ones that likely involve everyone, should not be made via email back and forth, as there is just too much scope for misunderstanding.
Team meetings don’t have to be formal affairs in the conference room either. Simply suggesting that everyone gather for coffee in an hour can be an easy, calm and less potentially confrontational way to get any issues that need to be dealt with settled to everyone’s satisfaction. No time for coffee? Make use of a video conferencing tool instead.
Failing to Offer Criticism in the Right Way
No employee is perfect and sometimes criticisms do have to be made. However, even using the word criticism is a little too negative if you want team communications and cooperation to thrive.
A better way of phrasing things would be constructive feedback. This means focusing on the issue with the work at hand. Far too often though such conversations are not positive. The boss is overworked, tired and frustrated. They shout and get aggressive, bringing up things from the past – or about an employee’s character – that never should have been discussed.
The employee is then both defensive and disappointed; this is the person they are supposed to trust and learn from? Communication breaks down, everything has been blown out of proportion and it can be hard for either side to see how things can be resolved.
Rather than risk this plan out any conversations in which constructive feedback is called for, arrange a face to face with the employee involved and then make sure that constructive feedback is exactly what is offered, not accusations and nasty rebukes.
Failure to Show Appreciation the Right Way
Everyone wants to know that their hard work is appreciated. They don’t – as a rule – expect to be given a medal for simply getting to the end of a project in one piece and with the goals set out accomplished. For the most part a simple acknowledgement of a job well done is more than enough.
There is, however, a right and wrong way to go about doing this. A ‘let me CC everyone’ congratulatory email is quite possibly going to be perceived as insincere and trite. Singling out certain individuals for public praise over others is divisive and simply asking for trouble (you can still do that, if someone has been a real star, but in private)
What will work best is gathering the team for a ‘last meeting’ to ensure that everyone feels appreciated and motivated to give their all to the next project, whatever that may be. Even if there is no time to do so in person, arranging a video call via your enterprise social network will still allow you to ensure that everyone knows that their hard work has not gone unnoticed.