Communication is a fact of life, especially in the workplace, teamwork, technology and remote work are on the rise. For a business to thrive, meet deadlines and exceed goals, strong communication systems and relationships must be in place. Stress, unmet expectations, failed relationships, low morale, customer dissatisfaction, family problems, health problems, and the small bottom line are chronic workplace issues where poor communication can be the cause.
Stress at work
High levels of stress in the workplace are a sign of communication problems. Poor communication can create the impression that everything on your to-do list is urgent, leaving you and others feeling rushed, stressed, overworked, and short on humor. Good communication brings a sense of stability and predictability, but a lack of communication or an unhealthy relationship introduces a sense of fear that leads to stress, which is counterproductive.
Workers who stress all day go home stressed and tired, which takes a toll on their families. Instead of being energized and grateful to have a spouse or parent at home, the family is stuck with someone who has too many emotions to take off from the workday and not enough time to get it all out in one night. Due to the level of stress and anxiety, employees may feel guilty and even conflict at home. When they start the next working day, this anxiety stays with them and it can be difficult if it is impossible to move forward.
Unfulfilled needs and expectations
A lack of communication results in unfulfilled expectations. Teams miss deadlines, clients miss appointments, and people on projects don’t seem to know what their roles are. When employees struggle to figure out what their priorities should be, they often choose the wrong ones and disappoint their bosses. Without clear expectations and priorities, it is impossible to know where to start and how to efficiently complete a project.
Arguments and other related breakdowns
If you’ve ever opened your work email inbox, only to find an accusatory message from a colleague, coworker, or boss, you’ve probably experienced the frustration, anger, hurt, fear, and helplessness that can come with an unhealthy workplace relationship. Instead of asking questions about how a project is coming along or what your priorities and goals are, the email reads in an accusatory and inquiring tone.
Your previously positive relationship may feel strained, so when you pass your co-worker or boss’s room, you want to hide rather than sit down and have a friendly, problem-solving conversation. You may feel unsure about seeking conflict resolution, fearing how it will affect your job security. It is common to feel insecure or unsatisfied in completing your daily tasks, and all of these feelings reduce productivity in the workplace.
Low morale and high turnover
When people are dealing with strong emotions, they spend more time than usual on emotional management. Productivity decreases, and morale is replaced by relief from doing it all day. Workplace survival mode can be a real problem. When business relationships are damaged and there is no maintenance, trust goes out the window, making it difficult to work together to meet deadlines. When people miss deadlines, they feel poor about performance. This cycle prevents teams and businesses from reaching their true potential.
Physical and mental health issues
It’s not uncommon for things to go wrong at work or at home to have consequences for both mental and physical health. Mental health concerns and chronic health problems are more likely to develop during stressful times, especially when an employee lacks an outlet for stress relief, lacks the energy to care for themselves, or lacks emotional management skills. When these problems occur, encourage proper professional care and use it as an opportunity to change the situation.
Unhappy customers can be a sign of poor communication. When teams miss deadlines or appointments, superiors get frustrated and stressed, but so do customers. If your customer is expecting phone service to begin before opening and your installation team misses the deadline, your customer may be out of money. If your legal team is not fully prepared to present the case in court and is winging it at the last minute, the decision may not be favorable to your client. When the nursing staff misses a deadline, it means a patient doesn’t take their medication or shower on time.
When customers are dissatisfied, they often take their business elsewhere, which costs your company money.
Where poor communication can negatively impact stress levels, deadlines, morale, health, and the bottom line, good communication can have a positive and healing effect. Write clear job and project descriptions and ask how things are going. Use emails and messaging apps wisely. Treat others with kindness in return. Write down your priorities for overtime, and perhaps set aside time each week to directly address workplace concerns and generate solutions.
Practice active listening skills with colleagues and have the client’s best interest in mind. Create a culture of celebrating achievements and progress. When necessary, seek support from a corporate psychologist or communications consultant who can teach your team communication, self-care, active listening, and emotional management skills. Remember that none of us have perfect communication skills, but by adopting a growth mindset and moving in a positive direction, improvements can happen quickly.