Whenever two or more people get together, misunderstandings are bound to happen. Maybe the listener wasn’t fully listening — their mind was elsewhere. Or maybe the speaker left out some pertinent information, so the message didn’t make sense. And maybe the listener didn’t want to look misinformed, so they made assumptions, filled in the missing info for themselves, and got it all wrong. 

Now, multiply that kind of dynamic by the number of people in your organization, and you begin to see how essential workplace communication can be. How are we going to get anything done if we don’t understand each other? Let’s take a quick look at the causes and effects of poor communication in the workplace, and then find ways to fix it.  

Identifying the causes of poor communication

While communication issues in the workplace occur naturally, there are contributing factors that can make them worse.  Five common causes of poor communication include little or no feedback, fuzzy goals, unmotivated employees, unclear leadership and diverse work environments.  

Little or no feedback

In any workplace, communication plays a critical role in maintaining an effective and efficient working environment. When management fails to provide feedback to their staff, it can cause poor communication. Without feedback, employees may feel neglected or undervalued, leading to a lack of motivation and decreased productivity.

Not only that, but misunderstandings can arise, and tasks may not be completed as expected, leading to frustration and tension between management and staff. Effective communication requires both parties to give and receive feedback. Without it, problems can go unaddressed, causing a breakdown in communication and ultimately leading to poor performance and decreased morale in the workplace.

Fuzzy goals

Clear objectives focus attention and get people organized. When they’re unclear or unspoken, employees get confused, frustrated and blocked. When feedback is unclear, staff may not understand what is expected of them or how they can improve their performance. This can lead to frustration, confusion, and decreased morale among staff. Furthermore, fuzzy feedback may cause management to make assumptions about the staff's level of understanding or ability, which can result in unrealistic expectations or inadequate support for staff development. Overall, clear and precise communication is essential to avoid misunderstandings and promote effective communication between management and staff in the workplace. 

Unmotivated employees

When people don’t feel valued or respected in their work, they often lose interest and simply tune out. This can lead to misunderstandings, mistakes, and misinterpretations of expectations, causing delays, low productivity, and ultimately damaging the team's morale and organizational culture. Additionally, when employees are demotivated, they may also avoid communicating with their supervisors, leading to a lack of transparency and trust. As a result, it is essential for managers to prioritize employee engagement and motivation to ensure effective communication and a positive work environment.

Closed mindedness in a diverse workplace

Cultural diversity helps companies grow, but it can also lead to miscommunication. Companies that do not educate employees in diversity can run into trouble.  

Unclear leadership

Good managers clearly communicate objectives. Poor leaders struggle with making decisions, answering questions, and clarifying goals. When the leaders fail to provide clear directions, it can result in mistakes, missed deadlines, and poor performance. Unclear communication can lead to misunderstandings, conflict, and low morale among employees. As a result, it is important that leaders provide clear and concise guidance, set realistic expectations and encourage open communication to ensure that everyone is on the same page and working towards common goals.

The benefits of good workplace communication 

Effective communication in the workplace helps businesses and organizations in countless ways. When people listen and believe they are heard, they feel motivated to connect and engage. Effective communication also helps to build trust and transparency between employees and management, which can lead to improved job satisfaction and higher levels of productivity. Additionally, open communication channels provide employees with the information they need to make informed decisions, which can result in better collaboration and problem-solving. Overall, good workplace communication is essential for creating a positive and engaged workforce.

How to fix poor organizational communication in your workplace

There are a few simple actions your organization can take, and policies you can easily implement, to significantly improve communication with your entire workforce. Here are five tips to get started:

1. Get communication training

Educational organizations such as ASU CareerCatalyst specialize in job-relevant communication skills training offered online to help your team better cooperate, collaborate, and tackle problems together. 

2. Create an open-door policy 

Offer a safe space for employees to voice opinions, offer ideas, ask questions and share concerns.

3. Use an internal communication app

Slack and other instant messaging or social software can be the next best thing — and often help to complement – face-to-face meetings and a shared workspace.

4. Follow-up

Take meeting notes on deadlines and responsibilities and share them afterwards to ensure everyone is on the same page and understands expectations.

5. Get feedback

Effective communication in the workplace is a two-way street. Ask for input, give people a voice at meetings, and provide options to respond anonymously.

One of the most comprehensive, efficient, and accelerated ways to improve communication in the workplace is by offering communication training from the Professional Skills for Everyone Series, offered through ASU CareerCatalyst. With this program, learners acquire the kinds of interpersonal skills that aren’t necessarily taught in a traditional education setting. CareerCatalyst makes world-class training from a top-tier research university accessible to all learners at every stage of their careers. 

With courses that help you develop resilience, decision making, communication, digital intelligence, collaboration, conflict management, strategic thinking, coaching, feedback and culture skills, the Professional Skills for Everyone Series empowers all learners to develop the job-relevant career skills they need to reach their goals in a minimal amount of time. 

Your next step: Check out ASU CareerCatalyst's Communication For Everyone certificate and get the knowledge and skills you need to master communication at work.