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Although there are some careers where employees work completely independently, many people today find themselves working in teams at the office. The American economy is perhaps more competitive than ever, so employers are extremely interested in maximizing profits and successful teams can often help achieve this goal. However, the success of these teams is highly dependent on their communication, and poor team communication results in many negative outcomes.
Lack of Face-to-Face Communication
One of the first signs of bad team communication is that the team refrains from meeting in person or even talking over the phone. Although it isn’t necessary for all co-workers to be close friends, a friendly and supportive environment is extremely beneficial. Most employees enjoy working for a greater purpose. Teams of people that are accountable to one another often feel a sense of responsibility and don’t want to let each other down. Without this, employees may find themselves unengaged and doing the minimal amount of work required without any positive accountability to the greater good of the team. To fix this issue, companies should set up weekly team meetings that allow workers time to communicate face to face regularly.
Teams engaging in poor communication will experience confusion. This may be seen in missed deadlines, misunderstood requirements and other small but important details. When employees are always just trying to get on the same page, it is difficult to foster creativity and innovation. New ideas and a thriving environment are the result of clearly defined and understood structure and procedures. One way to help combat confusion is to assign a note-taker at every meeting to clarify and document important information. At the end of the meeting, the note-taker should e-mail their notes to everyone on the team to be sure each employee understands and has documentation.
Lack of Delegation
Bad team communication can often result in one or two team members doing all of the work. Trust and communication are the foundation of all good relationships, including those at work. However, if teams aren’t communicating, it is likely they don’t really trust each other. Without trust, the go-getters on the team will be hesitant to delegate responsibilities to others. Large discrepancies in workloads among the team will cultivate feelings of anger and resentment, further perpetuating the lack of trust and delegation. To turn this around, teams should alternate team leads. This gives everyone the opportunity to step up and rise to the occasion. This will also foster empathy for those who have always led the group because the others will begin to understand the positives and negatives of doing so.
One of the most costly results of poor communication is high turnover. This indicates communication is not only bad, but for some people it is unbearable. According to the Center for American Progress, the average cost of turnover for jobs other than executives and physicians was “21 percent of an employee’s annual salary.” With evidence such as this, companies can’t afford to train and expect effective, respectful communication between employees. To begin fostering positive and empowering communication, companies should create employee recognition programs. Since many people often work harder for praise and recognition than money, companies should recognize employees who are exhibiting positive behavior and practicing effective communication. This will empower those who are already exhibiting these traits to continue to do so and encourage others to follow their lead.
Sydney Neely has worked in the education arena for more than 10 years, teaching general education, the arts, communication and finance. She holds Bachelor of Arts and Master of Education degrees from Arizona State University. Neely also holds several state and federal financial licenses in life insurance and investments (Series 6 and 63).
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