In as much as miscommunication can occur anywhere and in any relationship, miscommunication can also occur at work. When miscommunication occurs in the workplace, conflict and tension arise, resulting in less productivity.
To avoid miscommunication in the workplace, it’s important to have an internal communications plan in place. A plan guides leaders, managers and employees on how to communicate properly and effectively, while at the same time, working towards specific goals.
While miscommunication cannot always be prevented, here are some ways to lessen its occurrence:
1. Promote active listening
Effective internal communication has a lot to do with being able to listen to what another person has to say that you are able to paraphrase his or her thought back to him or her. Active listening means doing away with all interruptions that may distract you from understanding what the other person has to say. It is also about taking note of your own ideas and biases, but not letting those interfere with taking in what the other person wants you to know and understand.
2. Engage in a dialogue about expectations
Never assume that a person is thinking or expecting something. Instead, for internal communications to be effective, open up to the other party. Let the other person know what your expectations are, and ask him or her what he or she expects as well. Discuss what potential risks and issues may occur, and how each of you can address them if or when they do happen.
One scenario to do this would be when a manager sits with a staff member and asks what his or her specific tasks and objectives are, and how those fit in with the tasks and objectives of other employees.
3. Take responsibility
A lot of the time, miscommunication occurs when people are not accountable. Before beginning any job or task, make sure employees know what they are responsible for, and take it upon yourself to be responsible for expounding on their job descriptions and tasks. Avoid misunderstandings by being very clear about what your staff member’s tasks are. Do this in a non-confrontational, friendly way so that your employee won’t be afraid to clarify anything with you.
4. Be clear, concise and consistent
An internal communications strategy without clear, concise and consistent messaging will always fall short of its purpose. Make sure that when you do communicate with your staff members, you do so clearly and straightforwardly. Your messages have to be consistent with the mission and vision of the company, or else, work processes may become confusing and chaotic, and goals might not get met.
5. Make communication multi-modal and easy to visit
While some employees respond to text, others lean more towards visual cues. Communicate with your employees through different methods – whether it be through newsletters, email messages or even digital signage solutions. The more channels you take, the more likely the message will stick.
Also, create communication that is easy to visit – that is, communication that has a paper trail. Instead of simply communicating messages verbally, have a track record by communicating via email or through chat conversations that can easily be referenced and printed. This way, when miscommunication does occur, it would be easy to confirm however which way the conversation went.
6. Use logic when structuring messages
People tend to remember bits of information rather than big detailed chunks of data. In order to avoid miscommunication, psychologists recommend using the “Pyramid Thinking” structure when relaying messages – that is, start off with the answer, then group and summarize your supporting arguments and supporting ideas.