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5 consequences of ineffective workplace communication

Workers spend around 20 hours of their week using digital communications tools — but when leaders don't use those same tools to communicate effectively, they waste time and colleagues suffer. 

  • Why it matters: Nearly 90% of workers report that ineffective communication has some level of impact on them and their job — including on work-life balance, job satisfaction, and more.

“The busier someone is, the less time they have to sort through, dig through the content out there that turns into what matters,” Mike Allen, co-founder of Axios, said during a recent Axios HQ event

For leaders who feel like — or hear that — their communications are getting lost in the shuffle, that can lead to fractured team culture, weaker retention rates, confusion, and misalignment across the organization. A more streamlined communication strategy can get colleagues back on board and in step.

The pitfalls of poor communication

When an organization has ineffective workplace communications, it affects every layer of collaboration, from executives to managers to teams. There’s often misalignment on goals, priorities, and what’s getting done, and it’s individual contributors who get caught in the chaos. 

Individuals who don’t get the information they need to do their jobs are often left scrambling to get their job done while meeting goals they may not understand. And they’re left struggling on multiple fronts as ineffective messages continue the problem instead of solve it. 

Poor communications impact:

  1. Trust: Overall, for 40% of workers, trust in leadership decreases when communication isn’t working. But it can be even worse for remote colleagues — with over 50% of them reporting that poor comms affect their trust in both leadership and their individual teams. 
  2. Collaboration: Over 40% of employees reported that poor communication had an effect on cross-functional collaborations, making it difficult to get work done in a timely manner, if at all. 
  3. Job satisfaction: Nearly 50% of employees said their job satisfaction was impacted by ineffective workplace communication.  
  4. Employee wellbeing: Over 40% of employees said poor communication affected their stress levels, and 60% reported digital communication increased burnout.
  5. Productivity: Almost 50% of workers said that poor communication negatively affected their productivity levels. 

From personal wellbeing to job performance, poor communication impacts individuals negatively across the board. And it’s up to leaders to recognize the problem and find a solution that works for everyone.

How to address poor communication

If you’re seeing problems with comms at your organization, there are ways to get colleagues back in alignment. It starts with having a clear path forward, one that puts your audience first. 

Focus on areas where you can make quick wins because you have to get folks to see that you’re listening and making changes before they’re likely to tune back in to what you’re sending. 

Create more effective communications: 

  • Formatting: Messages need to be readable if you want your audience to achieve any of your takeaways. Consider writing in the style of Smart Brevity, a communications formula that helps you style and format information to be clear, engaging, and memorable. It uses strategic bolding, bullet points, and shorter formatting to get your message seen and acted upon. 
  • Channel: You need to meet readers where they are and where they have time to access the information you send. Newsletters are the only form of communication that employees want more of. Audit your content and combine it into a single source of truth newsletter that your audience can count on to have the info it needs for them to feel connected to the company and its goals.  
  • Cadence: Send emails at consistent times and on the same days each week so that they actually get read, which ups the chances that your messages will get seen and acted upon. Find your best send time in our new report. 
  • Feedback: The best way to know what your audience wants to see is to ask them. Create an open feedback loop that allows them to tell you what they want to see more of, what they don’t need, and where there are communication gaps. 

The bottom line: Keep your employees in mind when crafting your workplace comms because the more you cater to what they need in order to do their job well, the better off your org will be in the long run. 

Go deeper: Poor communication creates workplace errors

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