Communication is often cited as one of the most important parts of a business and is essential to keep it functioning. Modern advances to technology such as video conferencing have taken steps to making it easier, but there are still too many companies which aren’t utilizing these developments to their full potential or are still failing to communicate properly, often with disastrous results that could cause a company to fail completely. Even people who are otherwise great at their jobs can be let down by poor inter-personal skills. These are some of the most common flaws with a modern company’s communication policy, issues frequently faced, and what can be done to resolve them.
Here are 3 common communication mistakes made by managers and executives and it would be best to avoid:
Mistake 1: Overreliance on E-Mail
E-mail may be a useful communication tool and method of exchanging information, but over reliance upon it can set a company back. It is important to recognize which situations require interaction through e-mail and which should be done through a different method, such as video conferencing or even a face-to-face conversation.
For instance, Mind Tools says that it is particularly upsetting to learn that they are being fired through an e-mail or text message. There are numerous stories online about major company decisions being delivered to employees through a quick e-mail, when they should clearly have been made in-person. For example, sharing news of an upcoming party is fine through e-mail. News that operations are being moved to a new country resulting in massive layoffs are definitely not something you want to find in your inbox first thing in the morning. It is far too impersonal for such a huge emotional blow.
Mind Tools recommends that any situation which involves deep emotional issues, such as delivering bad news, should be handled in-person and with sensitivity, or through an online video chat if this isn’t possible. It is much more difficult to express sympathy or handle delicate issues through text alone. Physical interaction also allows you to notice how the other person is responding so that you can act accordingly, ensuring that they have all the necessary information they need. Some companies have actually gotten rid of their e-mail accounts altogether in order to avoid these awkward situations and communicate with their colleagues better, with the added bonus of reducing the amount of time checking through e-mail each day.
Mistake 2: Keep Personal Matters Private
Your Thought Partner shares the story of AOL CEO Tim Armstrong, who arranged an employee conference in order to boost morale, but ended up firing an employee in front of everyone. Losing a job is embarrassing enough, but imagine it happening in front of all of your friends and colleagues. BlueJeans and similar software make a great tool for improving work related communication. However, just as with the e-mail example above, it is important to understand which situations require a group meeting and which should be made private.
Any personal matters, such as the above example, anything which could create an uncomfortable atmosphere, or anything which others won’t want shared around should be kept strictly on a one-on-one basis. While a business should encourage and utilize the free exchange of ideas, this shouldn’t be done at the expense of blurting out private information or making others feel uncomfortable.
There are also numerous cases of somebody saying something they shouldn’t to the media or sharing something on social media, even it is on their personal account, which damages the company’s reputation. This can result in decreased sales and even dismissal of the employee. As such, all company policies should make clear that the expression of personal information is forbidden and that complaints should be made to bosses, not posted online for the world to see.
Mistake 3: Allow for Flexibility
Another common mistake companies make is not allowing for enough flexibility in its policies or general work practise, including communication policies. Say you want to encourage more interaction in meetings, and try to achieve this by replacing all teleconferences with in-person meetings. There are advantages to traditional meetings, but many now prefer video conferencing. While cutting out e-mail works for some, others still see it as their most preferred method of keeping in contact. There is nothing wrong with encouraging your colleagues to use online tools to their full advantage and use the right communication method for the right situation, restricting them or insisting they stick only to the method of your choosing will hold them back, rather than allowing them to progress further.
Changes to technology and workplace culture should also mean adjustments to company communication policies. If yours hasn’t been updated for a while, it may be time to have another look at it. Keep in mind how new advancements such as video conferencing, the use of social media, and remote working have changed how employees communicate and that policies should be adjusted to allow for this.
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