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The Consequences of Bad Communication In The Workplace

workplace disagreementFew things can damage a workplace environment (and bottom line) more than bad communication.

The first signs usually come from strained employee relations. I used to moderate conversations between employees and try to resolve their issues with each other, focusing on how we could build a healthier coworker relationship. But what I found was that the problem often fell into two areas that needed clarification: individual roles and goals.

Lack of clear communication around the expectations of roles and goals creates problems in personal relationships as well as professional ones. Take Stan for example. While doing some consulting work for his boss, I started to get to know Stan. It wasn’t long before he came to me with a dilemma:

“David, you’re good at this problem-solving thing. So can you explain what happened to me this morning? While having breakfast with my wife, she said to me ‘Stan, how come you never buy me flowers or take me out to buy a new dress?’ I looked at her and could tell something was bothering her, so I responded, ‘That’s not a problem.’ I got up from my chair and pulled out my wallet and said, ‘Here’s fifty bucks. Now you can go and buy yourself something pretty.’ But she stopped and looked at me with a look that I can only describe as disgust. She took the money off the table and shook her head as she left the room! I don’t have a clue about what happened or what went wrong! Can you help me understand?”

The problem was that Stan didn’t understand what his wife was really trying to communicate. He didn’t realize that she was speaking in “code” that she thought he would be able to interpret. After I told Stan that his wife wasn’t really asking for the money and that she wanted him to show her some attention, his face lit up as he exclaimed, “Why didn’t she just say that?!”

The point is that when it comes to expectations about roles and goals in the workplace, you must be 100% clear and to the point. You never know if one of your team members is like Stan: not able to read between the lines.

If this is a topic you’d like to learn more about, check out my book RINGMASTER.