Miscommunication is a major barrier to organizational alignment and employee engagement. Learn how to avoid miscommunication in the workplace – and its hefty consequences – with this practical guide.
Frequent miscommunication in the workplace leads to operational mistakes, low productivity, and ultimately, employee disengagement.
When it comes to delivering health and safety messages, miscommunication can even be dangerous.
In this post, you’ll learn how to handle miscommunication in the workplace with class. We’ll also teach you how to prevent miscommunication from happening in the first place.
Why is Miscommunication in the Workplace a Problem?
Miscommunication is a problem because it prevents people from working together effectively and leads to confusion, distrust, and disengagement.
For example, say you send a message about a new company policy. But the message is not clear or is misunderstood. The recipients of the message may not have the information they need to follow a new company rule.
This can be a liability for your organization and lead to delays, mistakes, and other problems.
In some cases, miscommunication can even cause serious harm, such as when a doctor misinterprets a patient’s symptoms or when a manager gives unclear instructions during crisis communications.
What are the Causes of Miscommunication in the Workplace?
Miscommunication can be caused by a wide range of factors, and it’s important for organizations to be aware of these potential causes in order to address them. Here are just a few of the most common employee communication issues.
Lack of context
Imagine you messaged your employees “we’ll be restructuring the company” without any context or change management communications. Understandably, it would result in fear, confusion, and anger. As such, providing sufficient context is key to avoiding miscommunication.
Lack of training or communication skills
Miscommunication can occur when people do not have the training or communication skills needed to effectively convey or understand messages.
Inadequate resources or support
When there are inadequate resources or support for effective communication, it’s easy for miscommunication to happen. For example, if your company lacks proper internal communication tools or technology, you might not be able to reach your target audience at the right time. This can result in some people being left in the dark, a major no-no.
Organizational or structural factors
Miscommunication can be caused by organizational or structural factors, such as a hierarchical structure or lack of communication channels. Poor leadership communication, for instance, is a major cause of misunderstandings in the workplace.
Poorly written or unclear messages
The most common causes of ineffective communication in the workplace are messages that aren’t written or conveyed clearly. To avoid this type of miscommunication, minimize jargon, use short, simple sentences, and aim for the active voice when possible.
An easy way to implement these guidelines: use an internal communications template with pre-made messages for every occasion. Better yet, use a newsletter builder that integrates email with ChatGPT to quickly generate the perfect email message every time.
Generational or cultural differences
A multicultural and multigenerational workforce is an essential part of a diverse and inclusive company. But it also means you need to be mindful of how different messages may be interpreted as people have different communication styles, norms, and expectations.
Lack of attention or focus
Miscommunication can occur when people are not paying attention to what is being said, or if they are distracted by other things. It’s easy to blame the recipient for this type of miscommunication. But it’s also up to internal communications to come up with engaging company newsletter ideas and messages that people want to read.
Strong emotions, such as anger or frustration, can make it difficult for people to communicate effectively and can lead to miscommunication. It’s important to always write employee communications with a clear head. Avoid writing mass messages in an emotional state.
If internal messages are not tailored to the right audience, your recipients may be incredibly confused. Use an email tracking software and segmenting tool like ContactMonkey to understand audience preferences and send tailored internal emails.
Miscommunication can occur when people try to communicate using the wrong technology. For instance, if you use internal SMS to communicate lengthy email-style messages or vice-versa. To avoid this, we recommend brushing up on your business texting etiquette.
Examples of Miscommunication in the Workplace
Miscommunication in the workplace can take on many different forms. Let’s take a look at a few miscommunication examples to get a better understanding of what it looks like:
- A misunderstanding about a project deadline, leading to missed deliverables or incomplete work.
- Misinterpreting instructions or employee feedback, resulting in work that doesn’t meet expectations.
- Misunderstandings about roles and responsibilities, leading to confusion and duplication of effort.
- Miscommunication about company policies or procedures, resulting in employees making mistakes or violating rules.
- Failure to communicate important information to the rest of the team, leading to missed opportunities.
What are The Effects of Miscommunication in the Workplace?
The effects of miscommunication in the workplace can be wide-ranging and can have a negative impact on the organization as a whole. Some common consequences of miscommunication in the workplace include:
- Decreased productivity: Miscommunication can lead to delays, mistakes, and other problems that can impact productivity and efficiency.
- Poor decision-making: Miscommunication might lead to incomplete or inaccurate information being used to make decisions, which can lead to poor decisions.
- Conflict and misunderstandings: Miscommunication can result in misunderstandings and conflicts between coworkers, which can create a negative work environment and harm morale.
- Loss of trust and credibility: Miscommunication can erode trust and credibility within the organization, damaging relationships and undermining the reputation of the organization.
- Increased stress and frustration: Miscommunication can cause lots of stress and frustration for both the sender and receiver of a message. This can have negative effects on mental health and well-being.
How to Avoid Miscommunication in the Workplace:
While misunderstandings will always happen at one time or another, there are things you can do to minimize miscommunication. Here are a few ways for employers to avoid and tackle miscommunication in the workplace.
1. Clearly communicate expectations
Employers and internal communicators must clearly communicate their expectations to employees, so that everyone is on the same page and understands their roles and responsibilities. If you ever start saying to yourself, “they probably know what I’m talking about” or “the problem will likely clear up on its own,” it’s time to make your expectations clear.
2. Encourage open and honest communication
Employers should encourage open and honest communication among their employees. This requires cultivating a culture where people feel comfortable expressing their thoughts and ideas.
Consistently asking employees for upwards feedback and implementing technology with two-way communication are a few ways to start. Your investment will prevent misunderstandings and ensure that everyone is on the same page.
3. Use multiple communication channels
Employers should use multiple internal communication channels to reach their employees, such as email, internal SMS, and group messages. Having multiple lines of communication ensures that important information is conveyed to everyone and that there are no gaps in communication.
See how a text messaging service can transform your internal communications strategy.
ContactMonkey’s employee SMS tool, for instance, lets you send internal text messages from the same place where you craft employee emails.
But ContactMonkey doesn’t just combine multiple communication channels into one. It also lets you seamlessly navigate across these channels through convenient integrations.
With ContactMonkey’s HRIS integration, you can automatically update your distribution lists as employees join and leave your organization. This way, you can ensure that all of your communication streams are in sync and that you reach the right people with the right message.
4. Provide regular feedback
Just as employees should be encouraged to give upward feedback, employers should provide regular feedback to employees. That includes both positive and constructive feedback.
This can help employees understand how they are doing and what they can do to improve, and can prevent misunderstandings and conflicts.
5. Have regular meetings
Whether it’s through a virtual town hall or in-person team building events, employers should have regular meetings with their workforce in real-time.
This provides an opportunity to discuss important issues in more detail and ensure that everyone is on the same page. Ultimately, it will prevent misunderstandings and ensure that everyone is working towards the same goals.
With ContactMonkey’s event management feature, you can send event invites and automate meeting schedules straight from your internal newsletters.
6. Communicate clearly and concisely
We can’t stress this communication tip enough: be clear and concise when communicating with employees. Corporate jargon, endless acronyms, and fancy words like “thusly” may sound sophisticated, but they’re a major barrier to communication.
Not to mention, a huge cause of misunderstandings in the workplace. To avoid problems down the line, ditch complex language that may not be understood by everyone.
Craft the perfect message with our free internal communication templates!
7. Listen actively
Just as you want to make yourself clear when communicating, you want to also give your full attention to what others are saying. This requires actively listening to peoples’ words and, if in person, their body language.
Not only will this will help you understand their message more clearly, but it will also give the speaker cues on how well they’re communicating.
8. Ask questions
If you are not sure about something, don’t be afraid to ask questions and clarify. This is the only way to ensure that you have all the correct information and understand what is being communicated.
For internal communications teams, an easy way to encourage employees to ask questions is by embedding pulse surveys into their emails. You can easily do this with an HTML email builder like ContactMonkey:
9. Avoid assumptions
A good rule of thumb: avoid making assumptions about what others are thinking or trying to say. Instead, if something is unclear, ask for clarification and confirm that you understand the message.
10. Use the right communication channels
Choose the right communication channels for the message and the audience. For example, email is great for longer messages. But it may not be the best option for emergency alerts to your deskless workforce.
To deliver urgent messages more quickly, we recommend using email and SMS together with the help of an integrated employee text messaging system like ContactMonkey.
11. Check for understanding
To truly avoid miscommunication, you can check to make sure that the recipient understood your message correctly. When it comes to vital operational updates, for instance, you can ask employees to summarize the message back to you to confirm their understanding.
Keep in mind, this type of clarification is best done through face-to-face or virtual meetings rather than asynchronous communication.
12. Provide context
Provide context for your message to help the recipient understand it better. Explain why the information is important and how it relates to the recipient’s role or responsibilities.
For example, when creating a product launch email, you might want to go beyond what the product is and delve into its benefits. You’ll also want to share how a new product supports your company’s overarching goals and values.
13. Avoid multitasking
Avoid multitasking when communicating with others. Give the conversation your full attention to ensure that you understand the message and that it is conveyed accurately.
Not only does this help your own understanding, but it shows the person you’re communicating with that you value what they’re saying. In turn, it will encourage the other person to engage in more meaningful conversation and ultimately lessen the chances of miscommunication.
14. Avoid interrupting
Allow others to finish speaking before you interrupt. This will prevent misunderstandings and ensure that everyone has the opportunity to express their thoughts and ideas.
Interruptions also prevent you (and others) from getting the whole story and a clear picture of what’s going on. Not to mention, it might be discouraging for the speaker who will disengage from the conversation as well.
15. Be respectful
On a similar note, it’s important to always be respectful and considerate when communicating with others. Avoid using aggressive or confrontational language, and try to maintain a positive and constructive tone in your communications.
This might seem like a platitude but it’s actually the easiest way to avoid miscommunication and build stronger team bonds more broadly.
Use ContactMonkey to Avoid Miscommunication in the Workplace
The effects of miscommunication in the workplace can be significant. So it’s important for organizations to take steps to prevent miscommunication and address it when it does occur. Investing in quality communication tools is the easiest and fastest way to prevent miscommunication.
With ContactMonkey’s internal email software, you can reach your whole workforce with targeted messages and improve workplace communication. Not to mention, you can take advantage of dozens of pre-made email templates to ensure that your messaging is always clear, engaging, and consistent.
Want to take ContactMonkey for a test drive? Start your free trial of our email builder today and reap the benefits of effective communication!