Ineffective Feedback and Communication: Strategies for Correcting Course

Oct 5, 2023 | Employee Engagement, Performance Management

Navigating the challenges of providing regular and constructive feedback is crucial for fostering effective communication in organizations. Inadequate organizational communication and weak feedback mechanisms can result in suboptimal performance and, frequently, workplace conflicts.

Only 7% of U.S. employees strongly agree that in their workplace, communication is timely, accurate, and open. This problem brings serious consequences for individuals, teams, and organizations.

No matter how smart or skilled an employee may be, communication is essential to their success. That’s true for leaders as well. Leaders spend roughly 80% of their day communicating, yet they often struggle to communicate effectively with direct reports, causing misunderstandings and decreased productivity.

Let’s first examine how ineffective feedback and communication affect an organization. Then, we’ll share tips for cultivating effective communication channels and providing quality feedback. Through strong organizational communication, you can ensure seamless information flow, prevent confusion, and strengthen outcomes.

Table of Contents

1. Consequences of Ineffective Communication

2. Cultivating Effective Communication in the Workplace

3. Communication and Feedback FAQs

Consequences of Ineffective Communication

An elderly man and woman are having a discussion in a business meeting
Credit: Vlada Karpovich /Pexels

Why is ineffective feedback and communication at work such a problem? To start, they can lead to the following consequences, which affect an organization’s success:

  • Poor information flow. When communication channels don’t exist or aren’t used properly, people miss out on crucial updates and insights. This affects the whole team’s functions.
  • Decreased productivity. Teams’ productivity plummets when they don’t engage in strong communication. In 2023, poor communication has decreased productivity for nearly half of employees, a Forbes Advisor survey found.
  • Project delays. In a study by The Economist, 44% of respondents said poor communication had delayed project completion or caused project failure in their workplace.
  • Lower profits. With poor communication, the quality of products or services will likely decline. Or, customer service will suffer—along with the bottom line.
  • Unmet performance goals. Professional development will decline with ineffective feedback and communication, which can hinder employees’ career progression.
  • Conflicts at work. Misunderstandings and frustrations from poor communication lead to tension and conflict, distracting people from their work.
  • Poor relationships and culture. Ineffective communication causes relationships to suffer. Ultimately, a poor workplace culture can result.
  • Increased stress. For 80% of U.S. workers, poor communication increases stress. And 63% have even wanted to quit because of it.
  • Low morale. Workplace morale can drop by 31% due to poor communication, found The Economist. Why? With poor communication, people realize that they and their teams are underperforming. Conflicts and stress also cause morale to decline.
  • Lower job satisfaction—and higher turnover. Without effective feedback and clear communication, employees will believe leaders don’t care about their development. Poor relationships with peers will also make work feel unpleasant. Ultimately, they’ll start looking for a new position elsewhere.

Ineffective communication leads to a great deal of wasted time and expense. In today’s workplace, 46% of employees regularly receive unclear instructions. They spend about 40 minutes every day trying to make sense of them, compromising team effectiveness.

Research has also found that poor communication costs marketing teams $12,500 per employee each year. These teams spend an entire day each week resolving poor communication.

Among U.S. hospitals, ineffective communication between providers costs $12 billion per year, notes Forbes. And 86% of employees blame poor communications and lack of collaboration for most workplace failures, they note.

Reasons for Poor Communication and Feedback

Let’s now explore why poor communication happens. Understanding its root causes will help you overcome these issues.

The Rise of Remote Work

In 2023, 58% of employees work remotely. For 54% of remote workers, poor communication decreases trust in leadership, while 52% say it decreases trust in their team. And 60% of workers say digital communication tools are contributing to burnout—perhaps because organizations aren’t using them effectively.

Different Communication Styles

Differences in preferred communication styles and methods pose the biggest communication barrier, reports The Economist. Generational preferences may cause a Gen Zer to send instant messages when a Boomer would prefer a phone call, for instance. As a result, the message may get lost or two-way dialogue may fail to occur.

Unclear Understanding of Responsibilities

According to The Economist, having an unclear understanding of duties causes much confusion in communication. If direct reports misunderstand their priorities, they may not understand what their leader is telling them to do.

Time Pressure

Time pressure also plays a big role, reports The Economist. It causes people to speak without thinking and rush through their words. Managers and employees alike are prone to feeling pressed for time on a regular basis.

Let’s now dive into how to improve employee communication and feedback practices.

Cultivating Effective Communication in the Workplace

Two women discussing ways to have effective communication.
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Strengthening communication in your organization brings major advantages. With strong communication channels, teams will complete projects more efficiently and achieve better results. Plus, job satisfaction will rise.

“Open communication, whether between the employees and administrators or between the management and employees, leads to the formation of better personal and professional relationships,” write Akua Ahyia Adu-Oppong and Emmanuel Agyin-Birikorang in Communication in the Workplace. “This makes the employees feel genuinely cared and valued for, and they are more likely to remain loyal to the organization.”

Combat decreased productivity with our top tips for effective employee communication:

Give Daily Feedback

For managers, nothing has more importance than sharing timely employee feedback. “Effective feedback is a critical component of a productive work environment,” writes Richard A. Prayson in the journal Critical Values. “It provides a mechanism for assessing an employee’s performance, a guide for promoting the development of an employee trying to master a new task or competency, fodder for self-reflection, and a potential inducement to improve performance.”

Give well-earned praise whenever possible, and point out issues that employees should correct. Use a feedback-sharing tool to give feedback in the moment.

Develop Clear Communication Protocols

Promote effective employee communication by implementing agreed-upon practices and norms. State which communication channels to use for particular purposes. This will improve information flow among and between teams.

For instance, you could publish a newsletter to disperse information throughout the organization. If employees live in geographic proximity, bring them together for certain purposes, like launching a new team project or holding a quarterly town hall. Meanwhile, regular team check-ins could happen by video call. And teams can use a specific platform for collaboration and routine discussion.

Explain the Why Behind the What

Don’t just give instructions. Tell people why you want them to do what you’ve asked them to do. This will help your instructions make more sense and increase your employees’ investment in the task. 

Speaker and author Simon Sinek urges leaders to first share the purpose or vision behind what they’re asking (the “why”). Then, they should explain how to achieve it, followed by the intended results, explains the Niagara Institute.

Implement a Weekly Check-In Schedule (and Office Hours)

Create a schedule for one-on-ones with your direct reports. Meeting at the same time every week will help you avoid scheduling conflicts. Also, set specific office hours when employees can come to you with questions.

Cater to Others’ Communication Styles

When talking with other people, try to speak their language. For instance, if you want a colleague to get on board with an initiative, consider her communication style. Does she have an analytical, data-driven approach, or will speaking of shared values move her most effectively? Also consider whether this person would prefer a phone call, video call, or email.

Listen to Employees

To strengthen organizational communication and feedback, seek out employees’ opinions. Discuss their goals and responsibilities regularly, and get their feedback on policies. These conversations will give you a chance to clear up misunderstandings and show how much you value them, boosting loyalty.

Clarify the Purpose of Meetings

Effective communication in meetings requires clear direction. Set goals for every meeting before it begins, and announce them at the outset. Share the agenda before the meeting and post it in a prominent spot.

Develop Internal Communication Channels

In addition to regular team meetings and the use of company-wide emails, leveraging an internal communication channel like a company blog can greatly enhance employee engagement. A well-curated internal blog can serve as a dynamic platform for announcements, knowledge sharing, and celebrating team wins. In fact, a comprehensive guide on maximizing the impact of an internal company blog for employee engagement offers valuable insights into implementing this effectively within your organization.

Foster Communication Across Levels and Roles

According to Adu-Oppong and Agyin-Birikorang, open communication between leaders and subordinates boosts productivity and retention. Employees feel more motivated, valued, and driven to do their best work. Create opportunities for people of different levels to discuss ideas and get to know one another, like group lunches.

Hold Conflict Resolution Workshops

Most people can use pointers on resolving conflicts at work. So, hold periodic workshops on resolving and mediating conflicts. By engaging in role-playing exercises and receiving feedback from mediation experts, employees will strengthen this skill set. For example, they’ll learn how to recognize the sources of conflict and brainstorm solutions together.

Leverage the Right Tools

Good software can strengthen an organization’s communication channels, improving information flow. The following tools will benefit any company:

  • Instant feedback solutions. As mentioned, these tools make delivering bite-size feedback easy and convenient, enhancing performance in real time.
  • Performance review software. You’ll deliver higher-quality feedback to employees with more frequent performance reviews, great questions, and easy-to-use manager logs.
  • Goal-tracking tools. These performance management solutions provide a quick-reference update on employees’ progress toward their objectives. They’ll strengthen managers’ daily feedback and help employees take charge of their own growth.
  • 360-degree reviews. Employees and leaders will gain valuable feedback from colleagues through 360 reviews. By collecting feedback from a variety of different raters, and then examining the patterns it reveals, you can deepen employees’ self-awareness. Quality 360-degree review software will synthesize the data for you and draw conclusions.

These tools will help eliminate ineffective communication in the workplace. Managers and employees will both gain effective feedback from one another that benefits their growth.

Communication and Feedback FAQs

Here are a few common questions on effective communication at work.

Which tools are most crucial for effective employee communication?

Video conferencing software and feedback-sharing apps are vital for remote teams, facilitating daily communication. And using survey software will make employee communication a two-way street. Other tools, like performance review software, should be used periodically.

Will AI strengthen workplace communication?

AI will likely help in some ways, like clarifying areas of confusion. From taking accurate notes during meetings to helping employees understand their duties, AI virtual assistants may indeed improve workplace communication.

Do communication preferences vary by generation?

Yes, although preferences are also highly individualistic. Forbes Advisor notes that in their survey, “40% of respondents between 59 and 77 preferred in-person conversation while that was only true for 17% of people ages 18 to 26 and 16% of people ages 27 to 42.” But always ask individuals how they prefer to communicate.

Through strong organizational communication, you’ll accelerate productivity and minimize conflicts at work. Your company will work more efficiently, improve job satisfaction, and provide better results for your customers. As you cultivate effective communication channels and practices, you’ll see team productivity rise and achieve a new level of excellence.

To learn how software can help improve communication in your workplace, demo our product.

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