Friday, September 30, 2011

5 Habits That Contribute To Poor Workplace Communication

At a retreat full of  leaders, one of the executives admitted he says things like, "What's wrong with you? Are you incompetent?" Deep down, he knew this to be ineffective communication that in no way contributes to better workplace relationships.  The  reason he was coming clean is because he realized that his behavior impacted everyone in the workplace. Everyone was afraid. Afraid to admit a mistake; afraid to speak up; afraid to make a suggestion.  His ineffective communication was contributing to the morale and the negativity and he knew it.

Here are five ineffective communication patterns that contribute to workplace drama, and notice that in every instance part of the answer to ineffective communication  is to simply ask for what you want.

5  Habits that Contribute to Poor Workplace Communication

1. Focusing on what you don't want
2. Being too vague
3. Complaining
4. Sarcasm and innuendo
5. Resentment

Focusing on What You Don't Want
When you focus on what you don't want instead of what you do want, you get more push back and negativity. For example,  "I don't want to have to tell you to complete your tasks, tasks like giving me my messages, getting your report due at the end of the month, and emptying the trash before you leave work."

In this example you are talking about what you don't want. Instead say, "I want you to complete your tasks such as emptying the trash before leaving, giving me my messages and getting the report done at the end of the month without me having to remind you."

Solution: Ask for what you want instead of what you don't want and set a boundary that includes a consequence. If going positive doesn't give you the results you need, you need to look at your accountability system or provide a one-on-one meeting to discuss job performance, or even a termination if you can't get your employees to simply do what is required.

Being too Vague
If you aren't specific as to the preferred behavior, it will be difficult to get cooperation. For example, "Please quit being so resistant and just step up to the plate and be a team player."

This communication is just too vague. What does it mean, "please quit being so resistant?" What specifically do you mean by "be a team player?" This could possibly be a training issue. Does the person know her job responsibilities and was she trained properly? Are there too many competing priorities on her plate and you are only seeing one piece of the puzzle?

Solution: Clearly define the behaviors you want, and make sure the employee has a clearly defined job responsibility and she understands how her role relates to the whole.  Example: "Sue, when Tom is tied up on the phone, and a new client walks through the door, I need you to immediately get the paper work started, then let Tom know before you go to break."

Believe it or not leaders complain–and some times quite often.  For example,  "I am exhausted to have to keep reminding you. Why can't you just anticipate when help is needed?"

The energy spent complaining and asking rhetorical questions does little to gain cooperation. Instead, a leader who complains sets a terrible example  for how to communicate effectively.

Solution: Simply ask for what you want and eliminate the time waster of complaining about your own mental and emotional state. You are responsible for your own well-being.

Sarcasm and Accusations
Sarcasm and accusations are not effective communication techniques. Example, "Oh that's really brilliant," or "I hope you are happy now that you've put me in this mess."

You may get some compliance but you won't gain commitment using these manipulative tools. Sometimes it is appropriate to show that you are disappointed. The key is to learn how to do so without blaming or game-playing.

Solution: Express your frustration by representing yourself instead of using sarcasm.  For example, "John, I am extremely frustrated right now, and I need your ideas to get this report out by tomorrow." Now you have effectively communicated your state of mind, and your desire to get the work done, without blaming or using sarcasm.

Employees know when the boss is resentful by the terse communication and the tone in the voice. For example, "Today I asked you to drop by the post office and deliver these packages. I also told you we are out of postage stamps, but did you even think to ask me if I could pick some up when you were there?" Pointing out someone's failures when you are tired or overworked  is never a good idea, no matter what role you play in the organization.

Solution: When you want to effectively communicate a thinking error or performance error, paint a picture of what you want to occur instead of pointing a finger about what went wrong. Example, "Hey Mary, what would benefit me is if when you leave for lunch, please stop by to ask if I need anything and that way you can make only one trip away from the office instead of being interrupted during the day."

Point to Ponder
How often do you complain, resort to sarcasm, suffer from resentment or focus on what is not working? To improve effective communication in the workplace, try asking for what you want, setting a simple boundary or representing yourself.

Marlene Chism is the founder of The Stop Your Drama Methodology, an 8-part empowerment process to increase clarity and improve productivity and personal effectiveness. Marlene combines universal principles with sound business practices to bridge personal and professional success. Marlene has a master's degree in HR Development from Webster University and is the author of Stop Workplace Drama.

Thanks to Marlene Chism / Stop Workplace Drama / ICARE Presentations

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