How Poor Communication Skills at Work Kills Culture
Interpersonal communication seems easy at first glance if there are no enhanced barriers such as interacting with someone who doesn’t know or is limited in the use of the language (style, not ethnicity) the conversation is in. If both parties speak the same language style it seems as though it should be smooth and easy to exchange information. Unfortunately, we often find interpersonal communication to be anything but smooth and easy. People often forget that one of the major factors affecting the effectiveness of interpersonal communications is the emotions of each party involved..
A person’s tone, pitch, speed, inflection, etc. are adjusted by their emotion. The words they use, the way they use them are changed by the expressions and body language and are also dictated by their emotions. We are often told to slow down, use different words, not be accusatory etc. When we try to adjust those areas we find we cannot do a very good job at it. The reason is because we are trying to change the results of the emotion but without changing the emotion. It’s a nice thought but it doesn’t work well. The fact is, a person’s effectiveness and success at interpersonal communication is largely based on their emotional control.
Things as seemingly innocuous as a leader speaking to an employee and not looking at them because they are doing something else at the same time can create hurt feelings, misunderstandings, and resentment. Small missteps like telling a person you need to or you have to or you must, can create sub-conscious resistance. We use these behaviors due to the emotions we feel, like: we are in a hurry or we shouldn’t have to “hold their hand”. People are emotional creatures that can think logically not logical creates who can think emotionally. Research shows we operate through our emotions 90% of the time. Even though it would be convenient for us not to have to consider emotions when communicating, there is always a price to pay if the message is received negatively. Of course, the things I mentioned are things we do not intend to be obnoxious, overbearing, obstinate, inconsiderate, or mean. If we operate through those behaviors the negative results will be exponentially exacerbated. The bottom line is, professional communication is a learned set of dynamic skills and most of us do not learn those skills growing up.
The solution is simple but not necessarily easy. Most often the speech patterns and behaviors we learned growing up are not the most effective for getting a group of people to coalesce in to a dynamic group committed to a set of goals. For some, those skills are not even conducive to people being in the same room together. For an organization to maximize their human capital, profit, and productivity, they must create an environment where people interact and communicate in a positive way where the interactions are focused on the sharing of information and do not engage the other’s negative emotions. In other words, the participants in communication can focus on the content of the message and not its delivery. This is accomplished by creating a standard of communication throughout the organization where everyone communicates assertively (they provide the facts that show how to achieve the results that accomplish the goals or mission with no negative emotions) through the appropriate communication styles and using emotional control. By creating this standard and making it the “norm” for everyone in the organization, it removes conflict, resistance, misunderstanding, and dramatically increases the productivity, profitability, and environmental comfort.
Creating this culture involves:
- Setting the communication behavior standards
- Displaying those standards
- Teaching everyone in the organization the behaviors and techniques the standards consist of and
- Enforcing those standards consistently and persistently.
Setting the standards, ensuring everyone follows them, and enforcing them creates a culture of positive communication where people are able to focus on why they are at work and what they are there to do instead of judging others and feeling why they don’t like them.