A lack of communication between managers and employees is cause for concern whether you’re the manager, employee, or even an invested third party.
It’s not enough, though, to just recognize that there’s a problem; action needs to be taken. Otherwise, it’s only a matter of time before productivity falls, preventable mistakes happen, conflicts arise, customer experience declines, and more. That is, if those things haven’t already begun to happen.
In any case, in this article, you will find some of the common reasons why a lack of communication between managers and employees happens and the effects this type of poor communication can have. Then, to help you take the next step and take action, we’ll outline a few practical tips you can implement immediately to begin fixing the communication problem at hand.
Common Reasons for a Lack of Communication Between Managers and Employees
The manager-employee relationship is one of, if not the most important relationship in any workplace. Unfortunately, some manager-employee relationships are stunted by a lack of communication. There are many reasons why this can happen, however, here are just a few common reasons for a lack of communication between managers and employees:
We’re all busy at work. For example, the average employee who uses Microsoft apps spends nearly 9 hours a week on email and 7.5 hours a week in meetings. For managers, these numbers can be significantly higher. Unfortunately, feeling busy and crunched for time can make it difficult for employees and managers to thoughtfully communicate with one another, especially if it’s not about a pressing matter.
Lack of Communication Skills
In the absence of strong communication skills, employees and leaders may find it so difficult to effectively communicate with one another that they avoid doing so unless necessary. This is unfortunate, given that the problem can easily be solved with the help of communication training.
Rigid hierarchical structures can create a workplace culture where employees and managers do not feel comfortable being 100% open, honest, and transparent with one another.
In one study, 69% of managers confessed to being uncomfortable communicating with their employees. Not only may this make those managers avoid communicating, but their employees will often pick up on their manager's discomfort or awkwardness and begin doing the same.
Misunderstood Communication Styles
Everyone has a preferred communication style at work. But when managers and employees don’t know what the other person’s style is, understand it, or try to work with it, it can create barriers that lead to a lack of communication.
What Happens When Managers and Employees Don’t Communicate Well?
When a manager and an employee don’t communicate well, they’ll feel and experience the negative effects most intensely. However, they may not be the only ones, as their lack of communication can spill over and affect their colleagues, their internal and external customers, and their stakeholders.
To give you a sense of what may happen if left unchecked, here’s a list of the potential effects a lack of communication between managers and employees can have in the workplace:
Increase in the number or severity of mistakes
Decreased employee morale
Reduced employee engagement
Poor working relationship
Lack of accountability
Poor customer experience
Missed goals and targets
Tips to Fix a Lack of Communication Between Managers and Employees
A lack of communication between managers and employees isn’t something that can be remedied overnight. To help you take the first step in that direction, though, here are a few practical tips that can be applied right away:
Take a Communication Style Quiz: One of the easiest things managers and employees can do together is each take this free communication style quiz and then discuss each other’s results to get on the same page.
Schedule Weekly 1:1s: One-on-one meetings are a chance for managers and employees to connect face-to-face on a regular basis. The key is to never cancel these meetings and, if absolutely necessary, reschedule them for another time that same week.
Discuss Expectations: If a conversation about expectations around communication has never been had between a manager and an employee, now’s the time. It’s a chance to define clear expectations about things such as email response times or what to include in a status update.
Ask for Feedback: It’s never easy to ask for feedback, but it’s one of the best ways managers and employees can help each other communicate better with the other. So, be honest and constructive, but always tactful and respectful.
Enroll in a Training Program: If a lack of skills, tools, or confidence is to blame for the lack of communication between a manager and employee, communication training is a must. Be sure to look for training that’s tailored to the needs of the audience. For example, Niagara Institute’s best-selling communication program, Speaking as a Leader, is specifically designed for those in management and leadership positions.