Increasing communicative efficiency is essential to reduce miscommunication

From sharing confidential information to not sharing essential information, the consequences of communication mishaps can be damaging to careers, organisations – and downright embarrassing.

A recent study by international telecommunications provider TollFreeForwarding revealed that 56% of people have sent a communication to someone it wasn’t intended for while at work. Meanwhile, a study from the Independent Directors Council found companies with more than 100,000 employees were losing an average of $62 million per year due to miscommunication.

According to Stephen Hart, CEO at online price comparison business Card Switcher, bad communication can quickly snowball into a significant business problem.

He said: “Say your customer service team isn’t passing on customer feedback. That’s going to cause problems for sales, who don’t know how to tweak their approach. And your business development team, who won’t know how to improve the business. And your marketing team, who won’t understand your customer base. Bad communication has a tendency to cause compound issues and spread to other business areas.”

What would you expect to happen if you encountered a serious miscommunication at work? In the office environment, the likelihood of dismissal can vary depending on the specifics of the employment contract says attorney and adjunct law professor, Thomas J. Simeone.

“Many employment contracts state that an employee can only be fired for ‘good cause,’” he explains. “Some contracts then go on to define a good cause but others do not. So, insulting a manager, for example, could be grounds for termination if the employer desired.

On the other hand, other business owners have said they wouldn’t expect to see staff dismissed if communications were merely an accident.”

The study revealed men to be more careless than women – more than a third have accidentally sent confidential information and more than a quarter admitted to sending insulting comments about a colleague to the wrong recipient. This applied to only 15% of the women surveyed.

Obviously, miscommunication and missed information is inevitable but there are steps companies can take to increase their overall level of communicative efficiency. It can often be as simple as ensuring everyone is approachable during the working day.

Tracey Julien, VP of marketing at retirement planning organisation GuidedChoice, said: “Many employees feel intimidated and even too embarrassed to ask their manager a question to clarify what is being asked of them. This is probably one of the easiest issues to combat and yet it still occurs time and again.”

For larger businesses where communication happens across several departments, changing the primary medium for internal communication from emails to more direct platforms, such as Slack, is a great solution.

At Card Switcher, Hart suggests ‘the daily stand-up’ – a short meeting where participants answer three simple questions:

  1. What did you do yesterday?
  2. What will you do today? 
  3. What impediments or problems do you have?

He explains: “The communication and productivity benefits are immense. If someone is planning work that will disrupt someone else’s, you learn about it at the start of the day and can mould your day around it. Another huge benefit is that it highlights problems, issues, and impediments so someone can address them before they start causing problems.”