Avoiding Workplace Communication Breakdowns

Question:

As the office’s attendance rate and the team’s focus begins to wax and wane with the warmer weather, how am I supposed to keep our team on the same page and in the loop?

Answer:

Let’s face it – it’s summer. The sun is out, the pool is open, and vacation is calling. Communication is tough when you’re all in the office and focused, let alone when one team member is on vacation and two others are preparing for theirs’ the following week. In the chaos of vacations and summer schedules, here are a few ways to keep your team together during these hectic few months.

First, let’s talk about how you plan to communicate. In her Zinc article, 4 Common Causes of Communication Breakdowns at Work, Kristen Wells makes the excellent point that different modes of communication are required for different types of communication. Is the topic complex, layered, and most likely going to generate several questions? That may be best for in-person and perhaps in a group. Is this another meeting that could have been an email? Think twice before you schedule time on the team’s calendar.

Secondly, let’s consider who you’re communicating to. This can be examined in two different ways: by generation, and by personality. In Robin Throckmorton and Linda Gravett’s book Bridging the Generation Gap, they make the point that each of the generations in the work force have a form of communication that is preferred by the majority:

  • Radio Babies (1930 – 1945) – Face to Face
  • Baby Boomers (1946 – 1964) – Meetings
  • Generation X (1965 – 1976) – Email
  • Generation Y (1977 – 1991) – Text and Email
  • Generation Z (1991 – present) – Text and Face to Face

These preferences will invariably differ from person to person, and each person’s preference is not determined solely by their age. This is why it’s also best practice to consider the individual’s personality and their own personal style.

In a summary of Mark Murphy’s research of personality and communication styles, Karl Sun points to four different communication styles and how to best connect with them in his Forbes article 4 Ways to Combat Workplace Communication Breakdowns. Below are those styles, as well as examples of how to communicate with them:

  • Analytical Style: these individuals prefer facts, data, and specific language.
    • Ex: “Hey team, we need your August timesheets filled out, including the hours spent volunteering on the 8th, by 12 pm on September 1st.”
  • Intuitive Style: They want to know the big picture – avoid bogging them down with detail.
    • Ex: “Team – timesheets due by 12 pm on September 1st. Thanks!”
  • Functional Style: These folks want to know the process.
    • Ex: “Team – don’t forget that timesheets are due September 1st. We need them by noon so that we can check them, submit them to accounting, and get them processed so we can all be paid on time.”
  • Personal Style: there’s an emphasis on relationships here.
    • Ex: “Team – what a productive month we’ve had! Thanks to everyone for the hard work you’ve put in, we so appreciate it. Please make sure to get those timesheets in by September 1st to make sure that your hard work doesn’t go to waste.”

We can break everyone down by age, gender, personality, location, but in the end, the best way to understand how someone likes to communicate is to ask them. Before your team scatters to the wind to enjoy the sun, take a few minutes to check in and see what works best for them. From there, your summer should be a breeze!

Communication often seems like a “no-brainer”. You have something to communicate and you just “do it”. But factor in multiple shifts or locations, off-site employees and a multigenerational workforce and you quickly learn that providing adequate communication to everyone you employ isn’t so easy. strategic HR inc. has years of experience writing for a diverse workforce; we even have a marketing/communications specialist on staff. Visit our Communications page to learn how we can assist you with various communication-based projects.