Communication is the key to a productive and positive work day. All too often it breaks down. Sometimes there are just disagreements or clashing priorities, but often the problem is actually miscommunication and unclear or confusing communication. Here’s how to fix it and avoid common miscommunication problems at work.
Get The Facts Right
One of the biggest obstacles to workplace communication is passing along wrong information. If your colleague asks for a statistic that you aren’t sure about, don’t just wing it in the hopes of the issue clarifying itself.
If you aren’t sure of any fact then be up front about it. It’s much more helpful for a coworker or boss to know that you’re currently unsure of an answer than to get a vague or incorrect answer that will lead to all sorts of useless or duplicated work online or around the office.¹
Assumptions lead to all sorts of miscommunications. This can be with clients and customers as well as between boss and employees and between colleagues. When you are explaining a project be open to detailing a bit more about how it works. When asking for help or further instruction don’t be afraid to ask questions when you aren’t sure.
Assumptions often happen in “the heat of the moment” and can snowball into a big problem. Someone assumes the other person understands the background of a task or project and then that person feels pressure to produce results without really fully grasping the task in the first place. Chaos ensure. Don’t assume.²
Keep Emails Simple and Clear
A reputable study on office habits discovered just 40 percent of people who get an email read the whole thing. Try to keep emails to colleagues, customers and employers simple and clear. If you need to go into detail then do, but don’t get flowery or overly long-winded.
Make it clear what you want in your emails and if you’re just saying hi or thanks then write that and sign off. Emailing is an art form and in the busy pace of work life you want to make sure that what you communicate is clear and direct. Don’t put your own doubts or unknowns into the email unless absolutely necessary: if you are confused about an unsure thing then wait an hour or two to write the email until you know.³
Don’t Be Vague
This tip is especially important for those with employees under them. Being vague or overly open-ended in your instructions or oversight can be deeply confusing. Try to be specific and clear while providing encouragement and feedback and when assigning new tasks.
If you are doing open-ended work or it is up to employees to come up with their own tack on a project then provide possible examples of past work or options they could look into if they are out of ideas. Being vague can lead to major miscommunication and lowered workplace morale.¹
When confusion or disagreements come up at work – which they inevitably will – someone needs to take responsibility. If there is no accountability for mistakes made then employee morale will crater, customer service will suffer and the overall image and practice of the business will begin to tank. There needs to be accountability.
Sometimes accountability can be something as simple as saying “I’m sorry, this one is my bad,” and really meaning it. Other times it can include fixing a problem or miscommunication you created voluntarily in order to demonstrate your commitment to the team and desire to get things right. Miscommunications will happen, but with accountability, clarity, patience and consistently good feedback in a welcoming environment they can be massively reduced.²