Monday morning, and the alarm shatters your sleep, sending you racing to the shower and into your car to join the commuter traffic half an hour later.
If the office is a place you associate with a creative buzz, supportive co-workers and a mission that stimulates and rewards you fairly, waking up to the daily grind is a well-managed ritual of adult life.
But if, for you, the workplace is a source of stress, confusion and desperate clock-watching until 5pm, one of the reasons could be due to problems with communication.
Of course, professional communication is a big subject, and has several dimensions. So it’s helpful to examine how it can be undermined due to seven sub-reasons.
1. Leadership is poor or non-existent
This is a tricky one. Sometimes, the problem isn’t that there is no communication as such, it’s that communication isn’t coming from the upper levels of command.
While it’s great to have a sense of camaraderie with your co-workers when you step through the office doors, if your managers or high-ranking personnel lack leadership ability and give confusing, reactive or limited instruction, effective workplace communication grinds to a halt.
2. Targets and goals lack clarity
One of the biggest motivation killers in even high-performing employees is working for an enterprise where the business mission is vague and short- and long-term targets are unclear. If this is the case, you can be sure communication across the chain of command will be vague and unclear in turn.
While your overall responsibilities will have been listed in the job description before you were hired, there should also be scheduled times when you and your manager set measurable goals for you to achieve and the flow of communication leaves you knowing exactly how to proceed. Such meetings also allow you to update him/her on the status of projects, receive or offer feedback and bring up suggestions for needful actions or decisions.
3. Colleagues lack sufficient training
Given the enormous pressures of the 21st-century workplace, the time window is continually shrinking with which to on-board new personnel effectively, training them appropriately for their responsibilities to superiors, co-workers and clientele.
And when personnel are under-prepared with the know-how to carry out their duties – which includes communicating accurately about tasks to do with their position – everyone in the chain of command feels the negative impact: from managers and colleagues, all the way to customers.
4. Workplace offers limited to no feedback
Much has been made of Millennial recruits’ ‘excessive’ need for feedback – Millennials being the generation of people born between 1981 and 1996.
Here’s a reality check: by the year 2020, experts predict Millennials will make up 35% of the global workforce. So if you’re a Millennial and your workplace doesn’t offer you feedback on ongoing processes, projects and your personal progress within the organisation… that’s definitely going to undermine effective communication at the office and make showing up and being engaged unnecessarily stressful and unappealing.
5. Lack of engagement across tiers or teams
Unfortunately, one negative situation leads to another. When you or your co-workers are struggling with an absence of feedback, clear leadership and goals and having to pick up the slack for under-trained peers, chances are good there’ll be a corresponding drop in morale.
Low morale in the office means disengaged personnel who are un-invested in their own tasks and in the company’s broader mission. This a CRUCIAL communication problem to resolve, as it very quickly destroys the firm’s quality of service, customer retention and profitability.
6. Collaboration with non-local teams
In other words, collaborating with virtual co-workers and associates who may be based in different time zones as well as separate geographical locations from you.
Given the global reach of the 21st-century workplace and our collective reliance on technology in our working as well as our personal lives, chances are good that your professional responsibilities will include interacting with virtual colleagues.
Their messages and approach to tasks may well be more challenging to read and manage effectively than if they were simply down the corridor or in the next cubicle. And brief (or overly long!) emails, skype calls or online posting board updates can be misinterpreted or taken the wrong way.
7. A culture of non-existent active listening
And finally, probably the most important factor of all… if, at your workplace, nobody truly actively LISTENS to their co-workers, team leaders and so on, communication will inevitably suffer.
The problem with listening, is people often believe it’s something passive – and it can be, if all you’re really doing is waiting for a chance to get back to your own point of view. You’re not actively listening, which is building a connection, remaining open, being present with the person trying to communicate their position, need or problem with you.
Active listening is crucial if messages are to be accurately received and acted upon in the workplace, and if it doesn’t already exist in your office or work environment, at least it can start with you!
Ultimately, communication in the workplace is incredibly significant when it comes to overall job satisfaction and productivity. So, next time you’re struggling to communicate at the office, I invite you to re-read this list and see if you can identify and resolve what’s really at the bottom of the situation.
To work with me one-on-one to take your professional and personal performance to new levels, please check out the LIMITLESS track of services at my website, www.leonidasalexandrou.com