In today’s fast paced-world, it's easy to suffer from information overload -- but too much information is only one of several communication problems you can encounter in the workplace. Too little information, inaccurate or ambiguous information, and poor communication techniques can cause errors, frustration and even conflict. Thinking about what can go wrong can help you to avoid problems and apply your full attention to your job, where it belongs.
Wrong Method or Audience
Using emails when you should use formal memos and vice-versa can alter the significance of a message. Even when the right communication method is used, it might include the wrong content for the intended receiver. Executives need quick, short, concise messages, limited to key points. Hands-on employees need details specific to their areas of expertise. Efficient organizations establish communication practices that match the method of delivery to a message's content and level of importance.
Too Much or Too Little
Messages with too much content can be ignored or misinterpreted. Messages with too little content prevent work from getting done. Fragmented and missing information can create conflict in the workplace when employees move forward based on assumptions or are unable to fulfill their duties. When information is not provided, it can also direct attention away from work as employees try to decipher why they are being kept uninformed.
Inaccurate or Unclear
Inaccurate facts or figures can lead to critical business errors. Unclear or ambiguous communications can be open to interpretation, leading recipients to act on assumptions. The length of some messages can be one cause of ambiguity, whether left on voice mail or in written form. Other causes include the use of slang words that lose meaning in multicultural organizations, acronyms that aren't readily recognized across the organization, and texting shorthand.
No Feedback or Follow-up
Lack of communication is also a problem. Managers who fail to provide feedback can derail employee motivation. Employees should be kept informed both when they're doing well and when they're not, to foster learning and development. Even when communication occurs, lack of follow-up can nullify its effectiveness. Sending an email does not mean a message has been communicated. The recipient might be so inundated with emails that she simply overlooked the message.
Distracted or Multi-tasking Recipients
Meetings are designed to promote communication, but the mobile nature of wireless communication technology can detract from a meeting's intent. Employees might be sitting in a conference room attending one meeting, and hooked up to another meeting using their laptops. Distractions and multitasking also occur on smaller levels, such as when talking to a colleague while she focuses on her computer. Setting ground rules during meetings can help, and involving distracted attendees in discussions will encourage them to remain alert. Following up with written details of agreements reached, decisions made and actions assigned is critical.
A careers content writer, Debra Kraft is a former English teacher whose 25-plus year corporate career includes training and mentoring. She holds a senior management position with a global automotive supplier and is a senior member of the American Society for Quality. Her areas of expertise include quality auditing, corporate compliance, Lean, ERP and IT business analysis.