Communicating messages is a game that you and I are familiar with, for we used to play it often during childhood. There was no specific name for the game. It was just popular as a fun game!
However, what was the exact game?
An adult organizer would make all of us sit in a circle. Then, ask for a volunteer. Taking the volunteer outside, the organizer would whisper a lengthy message into his/her ear. This child would come back to the circle, and transfer the message into the ear of the person sitting next to him/her. The second child would communicate with the third child, and the third with the fourth, and so on. Ultimately, the message would come back to the person who passed it on first.
The moot question, here is – When you play such a game, is the final message the same as the first one?
Surprisingly, it is not. The original message becomes highly distorted somewhere along the way. Therefore, the original meaning, or the essence of the communication, also becomes distorted. In short, the communication has not been fruitful at all.
Now, this does not happen just in play. It happens in real life too, especially in the work sphere, wherein misunderstandings arise because of ineffective or incomplete communication amongst individuals/groups. The misunderstandings reveal themselves in the form of strained atmospheres, arguments, quarrels, etc. Therefore, someone like you, in the position of manager/supervisor/trainer/head of department, should stop making the communication mistakes outlined below, and instead, encourage a harmonious atmosphere at the workplace.
Clarity About, and During, Meetings
Every meeting has a time limit, does it not? Knowing this, would it be sensible to have a heavy agenda in place? After all, it is not possible to tackle every issue at a single meeting. Instead, you may have to opt for several meetings to handle several problems.
However, every gathering must have a clear-cut agenda on display. It would help if the attendees are aware of this agenda too. They will be able to get their thoughts/opinions/recommendations together, for presenting at the meeting. Alternatively, you may devote a little bit of time at the beginning to the outlining of the purpose of the meeting, and your expectations from it.
Oprah Winfrey uses three questions to ensure that every show is a success.
- Why have I initiated this meeting?
- Why is it important to meet this person?
- What matters most to me, and the audience?
Maybe, you could do the same, such that there is greater bonding between the team and you. Attendees comprehend why they must come for the meeting, and feel ready to have open discussions with you.
Overuse of Jargon
You may be adept in using business language in your conversations. You may be highly proficient in understanding technical terms. However, it does not necessarily mean that everyone else in your organization is similarly proficient at comprehending all manner of jargon.
Note that employees have different backgrounds, needs, perceptions, expectations, biases, values, etc. They come under one umbrella – fields of experience. In other words, they can only comprehend the messages that you are trying to convey, within the context of their respective fields of experience.
To illustrate, suppose you sent out a notice, stating that there would be a meeting on Wednesday, and it would be an all-hands meeting. Not everyone understands what an all-hands meeting means. Instead, it would have been better to emphasize that all employees were expected to attend the meeting.
Thus, bear in mind that ‘your’ language, is not necessarily ‘everyone’s’ language.
Overloading with Information
A survey by Coveo in 2021, had this to say –
- An employee spends almost three hours every day, hunting for relevant information to complete office tasks.
- It is because around 41% of background information they get from the company for fulfilling their diverse job roles, is irrelevant and useless. Therefore, they need outside information for completing their tasks.
- The eternal search for data is leading to immense frustration and loss of self-confidence. Furthermore, employees are unsure if the information they find is outdated/current.
What makes it worse is that, within the organization itself, employees are being bombarded with emails, text messages, internal meetings, video conferences, group chats, social networks, and phone calls. In short, modern organizations are going in for ‘infobesity’, wherein there is a daily overload of information. Naturally, it is leading to overtaxed and confused brains, incapable of making appropriate and intelligent decisions.
The best way to control information overload, would be to have a knowledge management system in place. You could involve employees in the setting up of this system, such that it stays simple and relevant. You may even experiment with various tools to keep the presentations of necessary data, comprehensible. Opt for regular feedback, to see if it is working out, and whether changes need to be made.
Apart from the above, there are other challenges that come in the way of effective and meaningful communication. One of them is allowing the slow trickling of messages from the top management to the various departments and their respective employees. It can lead to the spread of the wrong messages, losing of relevant information along the way, and even, misplacing of requisite data.
Then again, there are managements that are too concerned with their own sense of importance. Therefore, they are not too keen on disseminating necessary news/information. This can lead to the spreading of rumors, since employees have no access to information about what is really happening in the organization. Ultimately, there is destruction of relationships between employees and employers.
A third challenge is ensuring that everybody understands what is happening. It can only occur if messages are repeated.
Therefore, you must go all out to make employees feel that they are an integral part of the organization. This is possible only if you always keep the communication pathways with them open, transparent, and relevant. It will ensure their loyalty towards the organization, too. Above all, face-to-face meetings are far more effective than digital ones. Therefore, it would be good to have a healthy mix of both.
An effective communicator speaks less, and listens more. The tone of conversation should be friendly, confident, and empathetic. Then again, it is not enough to merely pay attention to verbalizations. It is essential to observe the body language of the speaker too, for gestures and facial expressions convey much.