Imagine an office that was ruled by chaos.
You and your coworkers work diligently on a project for weeks, making excellent progress, and then receive a devastating email from above announcing the project was over and you are being reassigned. Believe it or not, in some workplaces, occurrences like these aren’t uncommon, and each time is as shocking and disconcerting as the first.
Departments are run by textbook-definition silos. Messages disappear into the technological void on all sides. Managers are distant yet dictatorial, and the company’s CEO is entirely absent as far as you are concerned. The conflict is ever-present and never resolved, so gossip reigned supreme.
To be perfectly honest, this is an example of one of the most stressful professional environments you can ever work in. And it is all caused by a serious lack of communication in the workplace.
Now, you can only imagine how many hours, dollars, and long-term employees would be lost due to this company’s serious problems.
Communication issues are rarely as pervasive as those in that particular setting; however, they exist in all companies at one point or another. By examining this shining example of poor communication, we can identify four strategies to promote good communication habits among colleagues.
4 Ways to Improve Communication in the Workplace
1. Streamline Your Tools
With the sheer number of communication tools available today, it’s easy to get sucked into using anything and everything within your office.
The company I worked for had us using Skype, Google Hangouts, Slack, Zoom, our task managing system, and email to communicate with each other. The sheer number of platforms we relied on made it nearly impossible to keep track of messages received or virtual meetings in progress. It was madness.
If your organization struggles with this kind of digital clutter overwhelm, do everyone a favor and pare everything way down.
Need client-facing tools? Choose one video conferencing software that you can use both internally and externally for client meetings, and reserve email for client communications. Keep all other internal comms within an intuitive and integrated task management system. Finally, get rid of all the superfluous tools you’ve been holding onto over the years.
2. Less Tech, More Talk
In an ironic turn of events, my next suggestion is to reduce your tool-assisted communication to an absolute minimum.
The principle is simple. Why spend 10 minutes crafting a difficult email and 30 minutes waiting for a response, when you risk having your message be interpreted incorrectly and causing stress or confusion on the other end? You could easily walk over for a brief 5-minute conversation and resolve the issue immediately. The same applies to client communications. In most cases, you don’t need to send an email when a brief phone call will suffice.
Emails and messages can get lost. They lack emotional context and carry none of the information we’d normally glean from body language or facial expressions. They can go unanswered for hours, days, or weeks.
By prioritizing real-time in-person communication, you’ll eliminate many of the barriers that arise from our tech-infused world.
3. Solicit Feedback
All too often, the worst communication issues exist between leaders and their team members. Employees feel unheard and misunderstood by their managers, and CEOs often have no idea what’s really happening in the minds of their employees.
In the case of that awfully chaotic company, we knew our managers had no idea what employees needed. There was little reason to respect our leadership staff because they never once asked for our opinion on matters large or small. We were replaceable cogs in their corporate machine, and we all eventually left for greener pastures.
If you’re experiencing this kind of disconnect in your own company, it’s time to initiate openness by following the number one rule of communication: listen.
Establish a system for soliciting frequent, anonymous feedback from your employees. Encourage participation by making sure your managers themselves complete surveys and offer their feedback on a regular basis, and speak frequently about the necessity of open communication company-wide.
Most importantly, show you’re paying attention by addressing your employees’ feedback respectfully and openly in your face-to-face and written interactions. Follow up with appropriate, tangible changes in policy or behavior. Your goal is to display that you’re serious about listening to your employees and taking their feedback into consideration.
In any relationship, one of the best ways to open lines of communication is to ask important questions and fully listen to the answers you receive. Pair this with forthcoming communication on behalf of leadership staff, and you’ve got a surefire way to break down barriers to communication in your company.
4. Prioritize Connection
Finally, it’s important to acknowledge the biggest counterpart to communication: community. It’s an iteration of the old chicken-or-the-egg concept: does open communication produce a sense of community, or does a sense of community foster ease in communication? Regardless of the specific order, both elements work in tandem to enforce your company culture and increase employee loyalty. They’re vital to the success of your company as a whole.
Prioritizing connection is one of the best ways to address a lack of communication in the workplace. Here are a few tangible ways to enhance the sense of community in your office:
- Set up biweekly one-on-one meetings between each individual employee and their manager. Encourage and empower managers to ask deeper questions about each team member’s sense of satisfaction at work, and use this forum to facilitate another employee feedback loop.
- Establish mentorship pairs or small groups in your company. These help new hires acclimate to your office environment quicker—but more importantly, they bring cohorts together in a way that will last throughout their tenure with the organization.
- Set aside time for team building activities. Whether that means taking an annual retreat or involving your employees in a friendly competition to support your new incentive program, you need to devote time toward building trust and connection between co-workers—especially those in different departments.
When you build a sense of community in your workplace, you make your employees feel at home. They become valued members of a wider work family—and they’re far more likely to converse with each other more deeply. They’ll collaborate more, yes, but they’ll also lean on each other and celebrate victories together.
This is what a functioning, healthy, and successful office environment looks like.
A lack of communication in the workplace can produce some nasty consequences. But through dedication to the targeted strategies listed here, it’s possible to completely transform your company into a more open and healthy workplace.
Of course, opening channels of communication is only as important as what you’re actually saying—and you want to make sure you’re communicating a message of respect, admiration, and appreciation for the hard work each employee does to make your company a success.
Looking for a tangible way to recognize your employees and express your appreciation? Consider launching a fully customizable employee incentive program. The experts at Inproma can help you craft a rewards program that incentivizes all employees in your firm and helps each individual feel valued. Let’s talk.