The Necessity of Excellent Communication Skills in the Workplace
Updated: Sep 8
How Your Communication Can Make or Break Your Career
In a Pickle
Anyone can relate to that feeling of accomplishment when finalizing & sending an intricate report for an important client. You even get work butterflies when clicking the “send” button on your screen, because you know that this report is crucial for your client’s company to expand and profit. Those work butterflies quickly dissipate when you receive a not-so-pleasant email from the client indicating that the report is late & are dissatisfied with the lack of timeliness. The client reiterates that it had to be turned in no later than half past noon. You, an accomplished, intelligent professional, are confused as you thought that meant any time after 12:00 p.m. You are now in, what some people call, a pickle.
This scenario is, unfortunately, a very common occurrence among native and English as an additional language learners, who are still trying to navigate the ins and outs of American phrases, slang, abbreviations, pronunciation, etc. So let’s explore why miscommunications in the workplace lands you in a giant pickle jar.
Misunderstandings & Missed Opportunities
In professional settings, we don’t dare play the game telephone, or at least we don’t intentionally play it. Misunderstandings will occur in the workplace; however, we must be diligent in correcting them immediately. Often, individuals will misinterpret deadlines or directions for completion of tasks; fail to respond appropriately to questions in meetings, negotiations, or interviews; & lack active listening and an open dialog among team members. With poor communication skills among leaders and team members, not only are tasks not sufficiently accomplished, there is instability and unpredictability in the work environment as employees are not carrying out tasks appropriately or performing to their full potential.
This can then lead to missed opportunities, such as obtaining a promotion or more responsibilities that can lead to better career outcomes. Some employers can even view their employees as irresponsible, incompetent, and inefficient when in fact the culprit is differing or poor communication and misinterpretations. This ultimately can make one at high-risk of termination.
Low Performance & Employee Morale
When one fails to communicate deadlines and directions or delegates tasks in a manner in which all those involved fail to understand their responsibilities and roles, friction often arises among team members. One may misperceive the other as being “rude” when in fact they are accustomed to having a direct style in emails; “lazy” when in fact due dates and times were vague and specific parameters were not provided; or “incompetent” when in actuality there is a language difference that does not correlate to one's intelligence. As mentioned in the latter case, language discrimination in the workplace is appalling, yet it continues to occur, but we will save that topic for another time.
Furthermore, when one is being misunderstood or is in a constant environment in which poor communication runs rampant, businesses need to address another issue: lack of motivation and morale among employees. When an individual lacks motivation to complete a task or feels demoralized, productivity and creativity are negatively impacted. There is less collaboration and flexibility, as well as limited exchange of ideas that could potentially foster increased productivity and gains. Feelings of guilt, shame, and anxiousness for not meeting expectations are also common and can impact self-esteem. Going to the office is no longer a place of inspiration and innovation, it is a place of stress and chaos. In a study published by Weakliem & Frenkel (2006), researchers found a direct correlation between employees' morale and their productivity within the company. Productivity and effort levels increased when morale was high.
How Can We Foster Better Communication in the Workplace?
Open lines of communication by creating a safe environment where one can express their concerns and ask clarifying questions
Embrace workplace diversity and provide resources or create opportunities to learn one another's uniqueness
Have clear directions or visual supports to detail expectations and deadlines.
Eliminate any obscurity by increasing transparency, directness, and clarity, not only in what you say, but in your communicative intent
Increase opportunities for for self-reflection/ self-analysis so that all team member can assess their roles and actions and how they can improve
This can then lead to collaborative problem-solving when issues arise
Let us know your thoughts and experiences
We would love to hear about your experiences. Feel free to tell us in the comments or email us with any thoughts and questions at firstname.lastname@example.org
1. Weakliem DL, Frenkel SJ. Morale and Workplace Performance. Work and Occupations. 2006;33(3):335-361. doi:10.1177/0730888406290054