Communication: What You May Be Doing Wrong Without Even Realizing

As a professional, you certainly know the importance of effective communication. Being an effective communicator is not only about the message, it’s also about the mode of communication and the opportunities you provide for feedback.

Your inability to get the point across thwarts your efforts at effective communication. You can’t just send out a company-wide email and assume everything is copacetic if no one replies. The truth may be that you were ineffective as a communicator, and people didn’t understand—or even pay attention—to your message.

There are some things you might be doing to undermine your effectiveness as a communicator, and you may not even know you’re doing them. Here are some communication pitfalls you should try to avoid:


You’re not an effective communicator if you just repeat the same message over and over. If you want to remind your employees about an important deadline, sending out a single reminder would be appropriate. Sending out multiple reminders, however, is overkill—and possibly even an insult to your employees’ ability to remember information. Redundancy in your messages is not only unnecessary, but it’s also counterproductive and a waste of time—for you and your employees. Whenever you send out communication on an ongoing subject, make sure it offers added information and is not merely a reiteration of the material you already shared.

Relying Too Much on One Channel (Or the Wrong Channel)

Today’s technology makes it possible to communicate in many different ways. While it’s easy to do, you shouldn’t get stuck in one particular communication mode. There are so many digital communication channels that work really well these days. Email is a popular tactic and can work well, but people are inundated with email today and often suffer from “in-box overload.” So, you may want to consider using a combination of tactics for impactful news, such as the announcement of a merger or a high-level addition to the company management.

Consider a web-based meeting when you really want to make an impact. According to “The Evolution of Work—The Changing Nature of the Global Workplace,” a study by ADP Research Institute®, nearly 80 percent of employees regard technology positively for allowing deeper connections across distance and time. It just makes sense to consider other forms of digital communication, such as mobile apps or an internal company website.

Being Indirect

Nobody likes to be the bearer of bad news, but it doesn’t help the situation to be vague or unclear. You should try to deliver important news in person—and the more complicated or easily misunderstood the message is likely to be, the more it makes sense for you to sit down across from the person—or team—to convey the message. A direct, in-person approach adds an important component to your communication: The ability to observe others’ facial expressions and body language, which allows you to ensure your message has been understood.

Ignoring Nonverbal Cues

If you listen only to a person words and ignore their nonverbal cues your direct communication may not be successful. Research conducted by Dr. Albert Mehrabian indicates that 55 percent of our intent is delivered through nonverbal elements, such as facial expressions, gestures, and postures. If employees seem to express agreement with a new policy, non verbal cues such as hunched shoulders, crossed arms, and lack of eye contact may indicate that you still have some work to do in order to get buy-in from your team.

Not Being Open

Secrecy in the workplace often erodes trust in leadership and foments gossip. By being more transparent in your communication, you foster a sense of belonging and trust. Knowledge replaces speculation, and can help reduce gossip and rumors.

Not Listening

Remember—communication is a two-way street. Soliciting feedback is one of the greatest ways for you to know what employees are truly thinking. If you want to improve your communication skills, heed this advice: Speak less, listen more. After you’ve had the opportunity to listen, you can fine-tune your communication skills to be more effective than before.

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Effectively Communicating Change To A Disgruntled Workforce

How do you communicate change to disgruntled employees and win their support and co-operation? In this fast-paced age of information and technological growth, change is inevitable — whether we wish it or not. So, how do you get your unwilling workforce on board? According to James O’Toole, the author of Leading Change, leaders who assume their employees will accept change simply because they are told to are doomed to failure.

It is challenging enough to communicate change to an engaged and positive workforce. It becomes more difficult when the employees are uncooperative and disgruntled. In order to communicate effectively, it is first essential to appreciate their reasons for resisting change. These range from dislike of instability; lack of comfort with change; being wary of sacrificing self-interests; hesitation in facing uncertainty and risk, and the accompanying stress; and simple office politics. Instead of welcoming potential benefits, human nature tends to fear the unknown and the unpredictable that threaten a sense of security.

This resistance is compounded if the employees perceive the change as being thrust upon them. And the main cause of this perception is lack of proper communication. Employees need to clearly understand all the Ws of change: the what, when and, most importantly, why. Therefore, anticipate resistance and understand its reasons in order to prepare effective strategies to communicate change. In particular, involve disgruntled employees; make them understand and become part of the transition, and they will be better inclined to buy into the change.

Here are some dos and don’ts of communicating change effectively:


  • Expect resistance and accept that it is normal
  • Communicate clearly, calmly, confidently and in a straightforward manner all the information you have, and also tell people what you don’t know
  • Understand that communication is a two-way process and therefore allow employees to ask questions, any questions, not just what you want to hear; listen carefully to all they have to ask and say, and empathise with their situation
  • Value others’ ideas and input, and whether you can use them or not, let it be known they matter
  • Elicit feedback and guide the disgruntled employees from start to finish through the change process by clearly explaining the purpose for the change and painting a picture of the future benefits after the change has taken place
  • Allow employees to contribute so they feel a sense of ownership and responsibility
  • Share your vision to make it a common goal; for this, understand the nature of your staff and suit your communication style to match their personality types
  • Talk to your employees, not at them; how you communicate your thoughts and ideas are just as important as the ideas themselves; so watch out for your body language
  • Create a change manager or hire a change management agent to work with the employees and keep communication on-going; if you don’t, the grapevine will go into over drive


  • Just look forward and talk about the future neglecting the past; it is just as important to deal with the loss, with what has been as with what will be
  • Spin or hide any vital information; transparency creates trust
  • Ignore the WIIFM (or, What’s In It For Me) factor; motivate your employees with some reward, however small
  • React emotionally to negative feedback; remain calm and confident, and keep the issues separate from the individuals
  • Use coercion or threats; negativity of disgruntled employees can contaminate the atmosphere of the entire team

Make disgruntled employees part of the transition by aligning them with you and work toward a common goal. According to veteran business consultant William Bridges (Managing Transitions, 2003) communication most often fails when companies fail to put the effort into helping people mentally make the transition. On the other hand, successful communication gives employees a clear purpose and picture, and a plan for the future that includes them in some participatory role. The bottom line is, if you cannot successfully influence your disgruntled employees and get their support in times of change, you risk losing not just them but your business.

As Charles Darwin rightly said: “It is not the strongest species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones who are most responsive to change”.

About the Author: Declan Mulkeen is Marketing Director at Communicaid a culture and business communication skills consultancy which provides cultural awareness training.

photo credit: drewgeraets via photopin cc