3 Common Examples of Poor, Morale Killing Organizational Communication That Can Easily Be Fixed
If I had a dime for every time I heard “communication” was a key problem in a company for which I was facilitating an employee focus group or engaging in employee feedback interviews, I could retire tomorrow. “Communication” is used as a catch-all platitude for all ills in an organization.
This organizational performance phenomenon was again brought to my attention recently when I was working with the full 25-member workforce of a regional non-profit agency that is growing by leaps and bounds.
No matter how hard I try setting up an exercise to identify the issues holding an organization back, I get ambiguities in reply. I am forced to drill the perpetrator of this ambiguous claim to identify a real core issue that can be addressed.
When working to improve employee morale and create a high-trust work environment, if you can’t define the problem in specific terms, you can’t fix it. People have real trouble articulating the specifics of a communication problem. Everyone knows what they don’t like about their workplace experience but most times use a generic label of “communication” to identify it. Usually, this is not done maliciously and is solely a result of a habit of communicating been built up over many years.
I find there are two limitations to how people identify “communication” as an issue. The first is a lack of specificity making it hard to identify what needs to improve regarding the communication flow. The second, which I learned yesterday for the first time, is in relation to the level at which communication takes place in the organizational hierarchy.The issue dealt with the interpersonal communication between a direct report and a supervisor. Most individuals struggling with communication gaps in a workplace make the same mistake and as such continue to feel a lack of support and build resentments that destroy trust.
For example, in this recent program there were at least three examples that started out as generic “communication” issues with no further explanation when we started the discussion:
Communication Issue #1
This issue was brought up by a new hire on the job just two weeks. I had to ask the young woman three times to give me specific examples of how the “communication” issue was specifically a problem. It turned out what she was actually referring to involved her initial orientation, on-boarding and performance expectations, which left her uncomfortable and uncertain in her new role.
As I questioned the team deeper on this issue, most everyone on her team felt confident that what she was experiencing was a reality for others throughout the agency.
In moving forward it gave agency leaders comfort that there was a concrete issue on which to focus attention and strategies to improve. Otherwise, with the blanket “communication” platitude, the issue would go unresolved, new and veteran employees alike would become stressed and frustrated. Over time this erodes trust and morale, creating a negative, low-expectation work environment.
Communication Issue #2
I was able to glean from an employee that her original ambiguous communication breakdown involved poor organizational flow of announcements and changes in policy, procedures and events that caused this person to learn of something from a person outside the agency. Too much of this type of communication breakdown can cause serious lack of trust and build resentment throughout an organization, but again, needs to be clearly identified before it can be adequately addressed.
Communication Issue #3
After being informed by a third employee that communication generically was an issue within the agency, I drilled deeper.
I learned the issue for this person wasn’t necessarilly a global agency issue but involved her immediate supervisor whom she felt did not listen to her and was not empathetic to her situation in addressing issues brought to his attention. I coached her that this is an interpersonal communication issue that must be first addressed one-on-one through which she must ask for what she wants and needs.
If that approach doesn’t get acceptable results, then further action can be taken. But it has to start with a direct request for a specific behavior change to the perpetrator. If this were to be brought to the leadership of the agency as a generic complaint it will fail and further reduce trust between these two employees. This situation can’t be fixed globally because it relates to an individual, one-on-one communication situation.
These three examples were chosen because they represent very common communication issues in many organizations. They are needlessly creating low morale, low trust work environments.
Organizational leaders and frontline employees need to be trained to recognize and address the non-specific communication they hear and they deliver, so that mind-reading can be reduced and expectations are effectively managed to generate a high level of organizational performance. It takes effort, but the reduction in stress, anxiety and uncertainty will improve results throughout the entire organization.
Non-specific communication is just one of seven organizational leadership communication mistakes that can destroy an organization’s culture and employee morale. In a recently released White Paper 34-page report I discuss this and the other six leadership communication mistakes and what do about them. You can click here to download this Free White Paper Report, “The 7 Deadliest Sins of Organizational Leadership Communication.”
Skip Weisman works with organizational leaders to improve personnel, productivity and profits by helping them “Create a Champion Organization,” now you can get his latest white paper,the 34-page report on “The 7 Deadliest Sins of Organizational Leadership Communication” at www.HowToImproveOrganizationalCommunication.com this will help your organization communicate effectively and take action with commitment towards a shared compelling vision.