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How Can I Resolve Interpersonal Communication Problems?

Improving communication involves a multifaceted approach depending on the situation and the people involved.  Given that communication is a two-way process, employers should establish ways for their workforce to communicate with them.  Never assume that you know what your employees are thinking.  Rather:

  • Encourage employees to ask questions in company, small group, and individual meetings. When holding small group meetings, consider mixing employees at all levels to get a variety of perspectives.
  • Conduct periodic employee focus groups and surveys about attitudes and opinions. You may be surprised by what you learn.
  • Maintain a procedure for employees to express grievances, and follow up promptly and consistently with your company policies.
  • Establish a suggestion box where employees can submit questions or voice concerns. Devise a response format and respond promptly and consistently to let workers know that you take their input seriously.
  • Consider establishing an employee hotline run by an independent provider, or setting up in-house confidential voicemail boxes, so employees can report problems they might be afraid to report otherwise.
  • Walk around informally and talk to your people. Casual conversations can yield a lot of information.  Managers should invest time in the field, out of their offices.

There is an overused yet true saying that people don’t leave there jobs, they leave their bosses.  Upon completing exit interviews, the most frequent complaints about former supervisors involve poor communication skills.  This isn’t surprising because businesses do not always hire and promote managers based on their communication skills.  These below common manager communication problems, if identified can be addressed.

  • Managing by e-mail: Far too many managers use email as a substitute for personal interaction. Managers who understand that personal contact is key to interpreting a person’s character and reaction and establishing commonality often choose to manage otherwise.  Everyday business is better handled through personal contact when possible.  More direct contact helps create better rapport and trust.
  • Lack of clarity: Many managers assume that when they give instructions or discuss a business case, everyone understands them and is ready to take action. They’re then surprise when the resulting project bears no relation to the outcome they had in mind.  Different people often make different deductions from the same information, and they proceed in good faith to the opposite of what the manager expected.  Clear communication results from asking the right questions, gaining clarity, and confirming what we have heard.  Only then people achieve a common understanding of a business issue or course of action.  Never make employees feel inadequate for asking questions.
  • Failure to give consistent feedback: Some managers don’t tell employees what they are doing right or wrong over the course of the year, at review time, they drop a bombshell on the unwary. Lack of ongoing, constructive evaluation robs the employee of the opportunity to learn from their successes and mistakes.  Minimize surprises, offer employees an opportunity to develop and improve throughout the year.  Provide continuing on-the-job evaluations focusing on situations as they arise, while they’re still fresh in everyone’s memory.
  • Too busy to manage: Managers are busier than ever with their own heavy workloads. It’s still important to allocate time out of your schedule for one-on-one and group employee meetings.  Taking telephone calls or allowing other interruptions during such sessions conveys to employees that you do not consider their concerns a priority.

For more information about our Employee Relations Services, please call 877-803-3486 or complete this form.