When it comes to the workplace, problems with communication can result in a very negative impact on the morale of your project team, their productivity and any working relationships that exist between departments. If this type of attitude remains unchecked any communications problems that exist can have a negative effect on profits, whilst also increasing costs and leading to errors that can have a negative impact on the public image of the company.
It is very important that you are able to recognise and address any common issues that exist, using those project management skills, in order to deal with the problems before they get to the point where this is simply not possible. As a project manager it is important that you look out for any common communication problems in the workplace and ensure that they are solved as quickly as possible.
Failing to communicate properly
The modern workplace is dominated by quick, short answers. Whether these are sent via email or text it is all too easy for the important details to be lost, misunderstood, or worse overlooked. Unfortunately, the answer “yes” when an email contains a series of questions is not a very clear response. In the same way the response “ok” when you are asked to do something a little more complex such as review a document, is not the kind of answer that helps; more details on what is needed, when it is needed by and even where the document is would help everyone involved.
So, if you want to ensure that this is not the type of communication challenge that you have then you need to ensure that all emailed requests are detailed and clear and that responses are full and easy to understand. Don’t press send until you have ensured you have answered every question properly, and that hopefully the person you are sending it to will not still have questions they need to ask.
Don’t assume anything
If you are part of a big group discussing ideas, whether you are doing this by group email, or through a group project then there is a possibility that you could think that someone else is dealing with a particular task – don’t assume, this often creates the inevitable issue that the ball is dropped and nobody is dealing with the issue at all, but everyone thinks it is covered. When this happens, it can mean missing an important deadline.
There needs to be one person in a group who is in charge of making sure that roles are clarified before the discussions are complete. This can be followed up in a group email which outlines everyone’s responsibilities.
Failing to self-edit
This is a very good technique in business that should be learnt, both in verbal and written forms. If you do not think about what you are about to say or write you may cause a breakdown in communications. Whether this is because you are not explaining yourself fully or because you have responded without considering your response, this could result in feelings being hurt or misunderstandings occurring.
It takes seconds to check what you have written – including your spelling, validity, and grammar – before you press send. Don’t forget to consider the tone that you have used so that your words are not taken the wrong way. If you are speaking to someone you need to take time to think about your words before you utter them; once they are said you cannot take them back.
Not being prepared
If you are unprepared and running late for a meeting or you have a deadline approaching, then you may be tempted to improvise. It is all too easy when you are not prepared to make mistakes and even for misunderstandings to occur. This can result in the project possibly moving in the wrong direction.
It is really important that you are prepared and organised. If you are not, then it is best to ask for more time rather than being tempted to believe that you can just work things out yourself.
Using the wrong tools to communicate
There are times when an email will work and times when it won’t. The same can also be said about a telephone call or a face-to-face meeting; each has their place. If you pick the wrong way of communication or misjudge the situation than this can result in a breakdown in communications, which may lead to misunderstandings, confusion and ultimately hurt feelings.
When you are swapping information of a non-sensitive nature on a daily basis, then email is an acceptable method of communication. However, if you are looking to untangle a situation that has become difficult then you will find that a Skype session or telephone call will allow for better lines of communication. If you need to deliver bad news then you are better taking the face-to-face approach, this will allow you to make a personal connection, read body language and simply read the situation so you can react accordingly.
Sometimes when we speak without thinking we can say too much, we can also exchange information that is not appropriate or gossip. It can unfortunately be all too easy to share the wrong, inappropriate, information with the wrong person – for example by accidentally copying someone in on an email that was not meant for their eyes.
Use your project management qualifications in order to emphasise to your team just how important it is to ensure that there is confidentiality within the office. Make sure that any sensitive meetings you have are held behind closed doors and do not put any information that is highly confidential in emails. Make sure that any gossip within the team is discouraged entirely.
If you want to ensure that you have the right communication structure in place, then you need to ensure that this is put in place from the top down. Consider a best practice communication policy if you don’t already have one.