Common communication mistakes in the workplace

You already know that effective communication is critical to your business’s success, no matter what industry you’re in. But what you might not know is where you’re going wrong. Even seasoned executives are subject to making communication mistakes (which might not have anything to do with their grammar or word choices). Here are the top three communication faux pas you might be making at work. 

1. Using one-size-fits-all communication

You’d probably be a little concerned if one of your friends replied to your text with, “Sorry, I don’t have the bandwidth to tackle this right now. Let’s circle back to this topic later,” just like you’d spend an hour trying to decode a text from your client that was littered with emojis. People don’t communicate with everyone in their life the same way, nor should they. But instead of lumping everyone into the broad categories of “friend,” “client,” or “coworker” to decide who warrants a text, phone call or email, try taking everyone’s individual psychology into account too. 

By definition, communication is the process of sending and receiving messages, so how the recipient processes your message can mean the difference between a successful exchange and a cluster-you-know-what. People interpret messages based on their background and life experiences, mindset, education and emotional intelligence, personality, and the context of their relationship with the sender – which is why you would be worried if your friend started sending corporate jargon over text. A seasoned professional in his sixties is not likely to consume communications in the same way that a recent college graduate does, so if you have a multi-generational team or work with people across vastly different specialties, you’ll have to communicate with each of them a little differently.

2. You speak more than you listen

Communication is usually treated like an Olympic sport in the corporate world: whoever can run their idea down the field fast and hard enough wins. But if you’ve created a work environment where employees feel like they have to talk over one another just to get your attention, that’s your first problem. 

Employees learn from their leaders’ examples, so three things will probably happen if you talk more than you listen. First, your employees will do the same, creating more miscommunications (and headaches) for you to sort out later. Second, you’ll be less likely to hear about problems that are happening from the bottom up, allowing conflicts and mistakes to fester until they’re full-blown crises. And third, if employees don’t feel heard, they won’t feel valued either. So the next time your sales manager comes to you with a question, pause to really hear what they’re saying before throwing some more directives at them.

3. Reacting, not responding

Picture this: it’s 3:30 on a Friday, and it’s been a long week. Your right hand is on vacation, shipments are majorly delayed, you’re scrambling to get ahead on paperwork, and you got a parking ticket yesterday. Great. You check your email one more time before you finally check out for the weekend, only to find an email titled “Customer Service Complaint,” explaining how one of your employees dropped the ball on a huge order for one of your best customers. 

Needless to say, you’re angry. You start writing an email that reads something like, “What is this, Jerry??? I don’t have time to deal with this – or you. Learn how to do your job, or I’ll find someone else who can.” You hit send – but feel a tinge of guilt immediately after. Now, Jerry has a nasty email from you in writing. And worse, you didn’t stop to consider why he messed up the order in the first place. Is there a larger issue with your internal software, or is this related to the shipping issues you’ve been having all week? Maybe he wasn’t even the one who filed and processed the order that day. 

Reactions are based on immediate impulses that don’t consider the long-term effects of what you say or do, whereas responses are guided by logic, context and critical reasoning. In other words, reactions are emotionally charged, while responses are the outcome of thoughtfulness and reflection. Learning to go from reacting to responding will dramatically improve your communication skills and help you handle conflict with ease


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