Written by: Stephanie L. Padgett-Jackson, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
We’ve all heard the saying, “Communication is the key”. Whether we’ve heard this phrase in the workplace or in our personal lives, it’s safe to say that communication is an essential part of our daily routine, and it should be. In this article we’re going to focus on the growing trend of poor communication in today’s workplace. According to Forbes Advisor, over 40% of workers feel that poor communication reduces the overall trust in their leadership, as well as amongst their coworkers. Now I could continue to present endless statistical data regarding the current trend of poor communication in the workplace, but I won’t. Instead, I will list below a few organizational communication mistakes, and practical tips inspired by real life workplace communication issues that have been experienced, observed, and shared with me over the years by a few of my clients.
Scenario 1: Sandra is the Staff Director of a small corporation. Recently, she overheard one of her staff members telling another coworker that there will be some significant organizational changes happening soon in the company. Sandra is aware of these forthcoming changes as it was discussed in a recent senior level management meeting. However, Sandra has not been informed by the CEO or any senior level executives that it was okay to share these changes with any of the staff members yet. To make matters worse, Sandra also overheard the same staff member telling the coworker that one of the managing executives shared this news with her during casual workplace conversation.
Tip: What’s the communication problem in this scenario? One of the common communication mistakes in a lot of small to midsize companies, is the lack of professional boundaries as it relates to workplace interactions and conversations. While it’s very beneficial and humanistic for staff and company leaders to establish and maintain a friendly rapport with one another, in order to promote a socially healthy climate within the company, company leaders should always maintain a consistent level of professional consciousness by not blurring the lines between personal and professional communication and interaction with their staff. Not establishing clear professional boundaries in the workplace can and will eventually prove to be problematic on many levels.
Scenario 2: Paul has been working for his employer approximately ten years, and has an exemplary performance record. One day Paul left for lunch a few minutes later than his usual time because he was completing some last minute details on his client’s account. When Paul returned to work, his manager storms into his office reading him the riot act in front of his fellow coworkers about returning from lunch a few minutes later than his usual time based on false information she received from another staff member. Paul’s manager didn’t know that he left for lunch a few minutes later than his usual time which is why he deviated from his usual lunch schedule. His manager was reacting to second hand information she received from one of Paul’s coworkers.
Tip: What were the communication mistakes made by Paul’s supervisor? First and foremost, company leaders setting a precedence for good workplace citizenship is very imperative to the successful day-to-day operations in any size organization. In other words, everyone deserves fairness, courtesy, and respect in the workplace, no matter their title or status within the company. It should be noted that most employees don’t have a problem with authority, it’s the abuse of it that is cause for concern. When presented with a potential issue about a staff member, a company leader should always execute due diligence by first investigating the potential issue, gathering information from reliable sources, and having a one on one private conversation with the employee in question, giving him or her the opportunity to clarify any misunderstandings and misperceptions. We should also always keep in mind that there is a difference between communication and effective communication.
Scenario 3: Morgan has always wanted to be promoted to a senior level position in her company by any means necessary, and everyone in her company is aware of it. One day Morgan finds what she believes to be an error made by one of her fellow coworkers on a client’s account. Instead of taking the issue directly to her coworker and giving the coworker an opportunity to review, clarify, and/or correct the potential error, Morgan takes it to one of the company managers confident that she is going to receive praise and recognition for finding this alleged error. To Morgan’s embarrassment, the manager reviews the alleged error and determines that there was no error made and Morgan is in fact wrong. Because the manager is aware of Morgan’s pattern of doing things like this to her coworkers, he proceeds to instruct Morgan to get back to work, and to stop trying to throw others under the bus for her own professional gain. Morgan was also warned that she will be written up if she continued her little antics.
Tip: What could Morgan have done to avoid this faux pas? In almost every workplace, there is most likely at least one overzealous employee that will do or say almost anything to get ahead, including throwing their fellow coworkers under the bus. There’s also that one employee who, once they are elevated to a higher position they will do or say almost anything including bad mouthing a coworker, lying on a fellow coworker, stealing the ideas of another coworker, downplaying the experience, talents and contributions of a fellow coworker, etc just to keep that coworker from getting the same opportunities. That’s what is also loosely known as having a “crabs in a bucket” mentality. The manager in this scenario handled the situation with Morgan in an appropriate manner.
One thing I’ve learned over the years is that there is no such thing as perfect communication in the workplace, but there is such a thing as healthy and effective workplace communication. No company will have all of the right answers and methods when it comes to establishing a healthy organizational climate. However, fostering effective communication and establishing clear workplace expectations from the management to the staff will be the fuel that will keep any organization of any size successfully thriving for many years. Effective communication is the key.
Stephanie L. Padgett-Jackson, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
Stephanie L. P. Jackson is the Proprietor of Tigress Consulting and Publications which offers services such as small business consulting, executive coaching, property and casualty insurance, and notary signing. Stephanie has also been working in legal administration for over 26 years. Stephanie takes pride in using her many years of experience, training, and education to help other entrepreneurs start and/or expand their businesses. Whether it's one small business at a time or one novice entrepreneur, Stephanie's mission is to help others achieve their personal and professional goals within the scope of her expertise.