Business 8 Causes of Miscommunication in Your Workplace - and...

8 Causes of Miscommunication in Your Workplace – and How to Fix Them


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By Jayson DeMers

It doesn’t take a communications expert to realize that most organizations suffer from ineffective—and in some cases downright destructive—communication at least some of the time. But it’s hard to pinpoint what makes communication ‘bad’ in a workplace, and improving that ‘bad’ communication is even harder.

That’s why I’ve put together this list of causes of miscommunication in the workplace so you can identify and correct communication problems that reduce efficiency, increase stress, and cost money.

Improve your business communication by avoiding these pitfalls

1. Inappropriate Medium Choices

We are fortunate to live in an era with dozens of different communication media available to us. Unfortunately, this also means that there are many inappropriate medium choices.

For example, having a meeting with 10 people instead of sending an email can cause a lot of time wasted, while trying to solve a complex problem via text message only leads to frustration for all parties involved.

Create a clear policy for when each medium is the best choice available and capitalize on each medium’s strengths.

2. Empty Statistics

Today’s business world revolves around data, with salespeople, marketers, and even HR reps basing their entire work on improving specific metrics, from employee retention to customer lifetime value.

There’s nothing wrong with this; in fact it is very beneficial if this optimization is done properly. The problem is that you can’t communicate with everyone just with numbers.

If you want your reports and arguments to be clear, persuasive, and persuasive, you need to provide additional context so your audience can better understand what these numbers mean.

3. Ambiguous Formulations

“Do you want me to do that today, or is next week okay?”


This is an example of an ambiguous answer: does the “yes” apply to “today” or “next week”? Obviously, this is some kind of simple misunderstanding that can be easily resolved with a follow-up question, but that can take some time. And bigger misunderstandings usually have a bigger negative impact.

Avoid this type of miscommunication by providing specificity, proactively anticipating how your sentences might be read, and reformulating yourself if necessary.

4. Not Replying

A notorious trait of modern politicians is to answer a question with an avoidant non-answer:

“What do you plan to do about the current economic crisis?”

“For example, I believe in America.”

This is confusing at best and manipulative at worst.

If you don’t know how to answer a question, have the courage to admit it. And if you don’t understand the question, ask for clarification.

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5. Verbal inflation

Conciseness is key in business communication, but sometimes, trying to make the mistake of explaining too much (or sounding smarter through elaboration), people fall into the trap of verbal inflation. They write paragraphs instead of sentences and speak in monologues instead of engaging in conversation.

One way to reduce this cause of miscommunication in the workplace is to think deeply about your words and strive to say less. Is there a way to formulate what you have to say more clearly and in fewer words?

6. Exaggerated Emotional Communication

Have you ever heard the advice to write an angry letter but not send it? This also applies to communication in the workplace. Over-emotional communication can create tension and weaken your strategic position, so it’s much better to take some time to cool down — and get back to the conversation once you’re grounded.

7. Passive Aggression

Passive-aggressive communication often occurs in hostile workplaces, where employees cannot openly criticize or express concerns about each other, yet have the motivation to express their feelings. These types of exchanges are usually counterproductive, unclear, rude and in some cases intimidating.

The solution is to create an environment where employees feel free to express their thoughts, ideas and concerns openly and with respect, which is often easier said than done.

8. Lack of Attention

Texting a colleague at midnight is inconsiderate. So does an immediate reply to an email if you know the recipient is busy, or refuses to respond to a message for weeks.

Empathy and humility, throughout your organization, will lead to much more considerate and pleasant exchanges and will ultimately reduce miscommunication.

Create guidelines to improve communication

Improving communication across an organization can be difficult, even if you know the biggest issues your staff are facing. That’s why it’s important to implement effective communications policies and guidelines that clearly and specifically encourage employees to write, speak, and collaborate in a more productive, streamlined way.

It’s also important to lead by example, so make sure all of your own outbound communication is polished and in line with the standards you set for others.

About the author

Jayson DeMers is the founder and CEO of EmailAnalytics, an email analytics tool that helps you visualize your (or your team’s) email activity in Gmail and G Suite. Jayson also co-hosts the popular podcast The Entrepreneur Cast.

RELATED: 6 communication tips to develop stronger business partnerships

Shreya Christina
Shreya has been with for 3 years, writing copy for client websites, blog posts, EDMs and other mediums to engage readers and encourage action. By collaborating with clients, our SEO manager and the wider team, Shreya seeks to understand an audience before creating memorable, persuasive copy.


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