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The Impact of Poor Communication at Work

Lynsey May Sutherland
Lynsey Sutherland
April 24, 2023
4 min read

Good communication is an art. Poor communication can be a costly mistake. Sometimes, seeing the difference between the two can be hard when you’re stuck in a series of bad habits. 

Thankfully, there are many ways to revitalise the communication pipelines in your organisation – and we’ve got some handy insights into the causes and solutions. 

Why is good communication so important?

Good communication can make all the difference, from helping your team avoid confusion and wasted time to building and creating a more open and honest atmosphere. 

Strong communication skills can affect every element of your business. It can help you improve productivity and create a more transparent company culture, meaning employees feel more engaged and satisfied. 

According to Forbes, nearly half of workers report their productivity being affected by ineffective communication. Is poor communication dragging your team down? Here’s how to find out. 

What is poor communication at work? 

Poor communication often occurs when there is a discrepancy between what one person says and what another person hears. This results in a misunderstanding of what you’re trying to tell them. 

It can also happen when there’s a lack of communication. For example, this could occur when management doesn’t give employees the necessary information needed to complete a task. 

What causes poor communication at work?

Rarely there’s ever only one cause of poor communication, but there are some common drivers to watch out for. 

1. Poor leadership

Leaders who don’t communicate effectively tend to sew discord and unhappiness among employees. Good communication is an essential leadership skill – it makes it possible for employees to engage and trust their managers, and it’s also very important for leading by example. 

Some leaders may choose to communicate less effectively even though they have all the tools at their disposal. Others may need a little training.

2. Unclear goals and objectives

It’s very difficult to communicate something that hasn’t been properly defined. When your organisation is unclear about its goals, or you don’t have a firm grasp of the objectives individual employees should be pursuing, you are likely to experience a breakdown in communication.

Working on communication skills is a worthy part of any strategy, but first, you should also ensure that you have worked out exactly what you need to communicate. Knowing how to describe your company’s culture is a great start, as is working out sensible employee development plans for your employees. 

3. Disengaged employees

When employees have mentally checked out of their jobs, they will do the bare minimum to get by. Communication can also break down if they don’t see the point in going the extra mile. 

4. Lack of time

We’re all busy, and as a result, communication falls by the wayside. We fall into the trap of thinking it’s easier to get things done independently instead of talking to the team about it. 

What are the effects of poor communication in the workplace?

The effects of poor communication can be far-reaching. Here are a few of the most likely – and costly – outcomes. 

1. Unpredictable work environment 

Every day can become unpredictable and confusing when no one is on the same page. Ideally, your employees want to be able to start each day knowing what’s expected from them and what is likely to come their way. Poor communication around essential tasks can make it difficult for teams to meet targets, let alone excel in their roles. 

2. Low morale

Who doesn’t start to feel discouraged when they can’t successfully communicate their wants and needs with their team or manager? Good communication and opportunities to share, vent and chat can contribute to greater feelings of wellbeing and psychological safety. 

2. Lack of collaboration 

A lack of collaboration is one of the most common pitfalls caused by a lack of communication. 

It’s almost impossible for a team to work well together when they don’t have open and easy-to-use lines of communication, and collaboration is a critical element of any successful team.

Stanford research found that working together significantly impacts motivation, with people working together persisting 48-64% longer on a challenging task than those working alone. 

3. Conflict 

Miscommunication is one of the most common causes of conflict, which can become a major headache in the workplace. 

With Acas reporting that workplace conflict costs UK employers £28.5 billion annually, an average of over £1,000 for every employee, it’s not a problem that can be ignored. 

Making it easier for people to communicate can help reduce the opportunity for arguments or conflicts.

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Mo is an employee recognition and engagement platform that can help leaders improve collaboration and morale, reduce employee churn and drive change. 

Our platform creates a vibrant culture by developing team habits, encouraging people to celebrate success, recognise results and appreciate colleagues. Your complete toolkit for connecting and motivating teams in the new world of work. Book a demo with our team today.

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