Communication is key — especially in the workplace, where people need to be on the same page and be working toward the same ultimate bigger-picture goals. But, often, we're faced with a lack of communication that can lead to a whole host of issues at work.
Here are seven things that can arise from a lack of communication in the workplace.
Misunderstandings happen all the time — especially when communication is not clear. And misunderstandings out of a lack of communication can lead to some serious issues in the workplace. For example, an employee might misunderstand what their responsibilities are if they're not clearly spelled out (preferably written out someplace) for them. They might then not do their job as well as they could be if they fully understood.
A candidate might also misunderstand the job role if it's not clearly described in the job advertisement. Then, the interview might be a waste of both their time and the company's time. Likewise, if a new-hire isn't properly boarded, they might misunderstand their place in the company and, as such, have a difficult time assimilating into their new position.
2. Missed opportunities
A lack of communication can often lead to missed opportunities, especially at work. This can happen because an employee does not clearly communicate their interest in an opening for a promotion, for example, or because they don't effectively communicate their interest and/or willingness to take on more responsibilities. As such, they may be passed up for the promotion.
Likewise, a manager might have an opening or an opportunity for an employee or a new candidate that they don't communicate well. And, as such, there might not be as much interest in that opportunity. Even though it would have been a great one, it didn't sound so great because the manager didn't communicate all of the benefits of it.
3. Unnecessary conflict
Unnecessary conflict can certainly arise from a lack of communication. For example, a lack of communication might cause two colleagues to end up doing more work for a team project than necessary. Perhaps they thought the other person wasn't doing a certain task, so they took it on for themselves only later to find out that the other person already did it. This can cause tension on the team.
Other conflicts that can arise may happen if a manager lays off a number of people on the team without communicating to the rest of the team the reasoning for the layoff. This can cause conflict in the office if the remaining employees feel like they've been blindsided and can no longer feel safe and secure in their jobs.
4. The "grapevine" effect
A lack of communication can lead to the "grapevine" effect, also known as the "telephone game." If one person miscommunicates information, that information can easily be passed along throughout the office. Of course, the dissemination of misinformation can lead to disarray, panic and overall disaster in the workplace.
A lack of communication can lead to mistrust in the workplace in a whole array of situations. Again, if a manager lays off several members of their team without explanation to the remaining team members, this can cause mistrust.
Another example is if a manager knows of an opening for a promotion but doesn't communicate it to their team, they might not trust that the manager has their best interest and career development in mind.
If the company keeps issues secret and brushes them under the rug (like sexual harassment or discrimination in the workplace, for examples), its employees might not trust that the company is handling them responsibly. Likewise, they might not trust that they can turn to their human resources departments to take care of any personal issues, either.
Besides, poor communication amongst employees also limits the closeness of their relationships and changes the ways in which employees engage with one another.
6. Low morale
A lack of communication can ultimately lead to low morale. Because ineffective communication can create misunderstandings, missed opportunities, conflict, the dissemination of misinformation and mistrust, employees might just feel overall defeated. They might not be motivated to work for such a company or for such a manager who cannot communicate important matters well.
Likewise, if a manager tells an employee only what they've done wrong and need to improve, and fails to communicate the positives, that employee might feel low morale.
After all, a wealth of research suggests that poor communication leads to stress in the workplace.
“Eighty percent of the US workforce reports feeling stressed because of ineffective company communication, a 30% jump from just one year ago,” according to a Dynamic Signal study.
Another study, "Workplace Stress: The need for Communication and Knowledge Sharing" adds: "There are many factors that can lead to stress within the workplace. Some are obvious — for instance, when an organization is going through restructuring or financial crisis. Many other internal causes of stress include miscommunications, long work overload or work under load, working hours, harassment, job insecurity, role conflict, workstation design, non-recognition, lack of competency, inequality, working relationships and so on."
And we all know that stress, of course, can lead to low morale, which eventually leads to burnout. Burnout is no good for anyone and can cost companies money.
7. A Broken Company Culture
At the end of the day, a lack of communication can seriously hurt company culture. Company culture relies on communication. If not everyone in the company is on the same page about what's expected of them, the values the company and its members shares or the longer-term and bigger-picture goals, then how can everyone work seamlessly together?
Likewise, with no guidance or direction, and with no clear explanation of the roles and responsibilities of departments and individual workers, employees might be at a loss as to how to operate together.
AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreportand Facebook.