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Workplace Communication: How Difficult Can It Be?

Communication, by definition, is the exchange of information between individuals. How simple is that?

But in the day-to-day of our personal and professional lives, it's often anything but. I'm sure we've all experienced those moments when we thought a message was simple and clear, only to encounter confusion or misunderstanding.

George Bernard Shaw's famous quote always rings in my head in those moments:

The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.

The gap between what we say, what others actually hear, and the actions that result from it are often different concepts.

Let's explore the 3 key pitfalls in workplace communication:

  1. Lack of Clarity and Context

Ever received a message that left you scratching your head, unsure of its purpose? It's a common issue in workplace communication. 

When faced with such messages, individuals often find themselves pondering: What is the problem being addressed? What am I supposed to do with this information? And perhaps most importantly, why should I care?

Vague or ambiguous messages often lead to misunderstandings. To address this:

  • Provide clear and concise information, avoiding ambiguity.

  • Use specific examples and background information to clarify messages.

  • Clearly outline the desired action or next steps for the recipient after reading the message.

2. Poor Listening Skills

It’s our greater desire to be heard, but we often forget the biggest gift of all: listening.

Effective communication is a dialogue, not a monologue. The more you learn to figure out what the other person is trying to address, the more likely that you’ll be able to respond properly. However, team members frequently prioritize self-expression over active listening.

To address this:

  • Promote active listening techniques: The easiest trick is not to listen to respond. Take the time to understand what someone is saying, summarizing, and asking clarifying questions to ensure accurate understanding. Only then think about your answer.

  • Foster a culture valuing everyone's input: There is nothing worse than when all meetings end with unanimous agreement. It often means that either no one feels confident to speak up or that there are not enough diverse perspectives in the conversation. To combat this, actively encourage diverse viewpoints by assigning a "devil's advocate" role to challenge assumptions and stimulate critical thinking.

3. Ineffective Action and Feedback Mechanisms

Despite engaging in productive conversations, many teams struggle to translate discussions into actionable plans with clear ownership and accountability. The path from dialogue to action is often the most difficult one

Here's the way for effective execution:

  • Establish a clear roadmap: Outline specific action steps, responsibilities, deadlines, and evaluation criteria.

  • Assign ownership: Designate one main owner for each action item to ensure clear accountability and follow-through, with multiple team members contributing responsibility.

  • Regularly review progress: Conduct ongoing reviews to track progress and adjust plans as needed. Address any obstacles or challenges encountered to keep the momentum going.

  • Foster a culture of transparency: Create an environment where team members feel comfortable providing feedback at every step

  • Utilize tools and systems for efficient progress tracking and communication updates, ensuring alignment and informed stakeholders without overwhelming communication.

  • Provide necessary resources and support team members need to execute their tasks effectively. Address quickly any gaps or obstacles hindering progress 

  • Celebrate achievements: Recognize and celebrate achievements and milestones reached along the way. 

And finally, let’s not forget the glue that holds everything together. As we navigate workplace communication, let's remember the crucial role of leadership.

Strong leadership fosters transparency and open dialogue, empowering teams to thrive. It helps overcome challenges like resource constraints and resistance to change, both requiring flexibility and resilience.

Effective communication is an ongoing journey, and the main key to collaboration, driving us towards shared goals, ensuring every voice is heard and valued.

Wishing you meaningful conversations,


Take action today to refine your Leadership Style and elevate team communication

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