3 Signs That You Have Poor Communication In The Workplace

Workplace communication is the cornerstone of a quality work environment. Whether you’re an entry-level employee or a CEO,  conveying your thoughts and feelings properly is the lifeblood that disseminates crucial information throughout the workplace. Proper workplace interaction is essential in allowing a business to run efficiently, employees to remain motivated and on-task and prevents easily-avoidable mishaps that can derail an otherwise efficient operation from happening.  

With that being said, efficient and effective workplace communication is surprisingly lacking in the modern work environment. In fact, more than half of employees surveyed in a nationwide assessment report regularly receiving unclear instructions. 

The problem comes from both ends of the spectrum; more than two-thirds of surveyed business managers indicate feeling uncomfortable communicating directly with their employees. 

While some people may be aware of the shortfalls in their communication (like the 60% of employees who knowingly ignore workplace emails), many simply do not know that their skills are lacking. 

So, how can you tell that your collaborative skills are lacking in the workplace? Before we get into that, let’s break down what proper workplace communication should look like in the first place.

Here’s what we’ll cover: 

Why Do You Need Proper Workplace Communication?

Proper workplace communication isn’t just essential to workplace productivity, it has a direct effect on worker welfare, health and morale. Beyond workflow and project streamlining, proper communication has a myriad of benefits and advantages that often go unnoticed and unrecognized.

For starters, it’s a given that good correspondence between employees, management and employees and management helps to mitigate conflict. At the end of the day, workplace conflict usually comes down to being misunderstood or miscommunication, not understanding the interaction patterns of different people or the simple fact that their emotional needs are not being heard or respected. Proper networking between teams, workers and management and between members of each group can serve to mitigate these problems without requiring escalation into the HR department. 

Good interaction between all members of the office also increases employee engagement. Ensuring everyone feels like their voices and opinions are heard and respected allows for a deeper understanding of their needs and wants. 

Additionally, open exchange can shed light on talents and skills that may otherwise remain in secret. A lack of communication can lead to an unsatisfying work environment – encouraging communication can improve the connection between co-workers allowing for a better work environment.


3 Signs of Poor Workplace Communication

Now that we have an understanding of the benefits of proper workplace communication, how does one go about recognizing poor communication in the workplace? 

Here are some 3 telltale signs:

Lack of Teamwork
Asana is a great project management tool that can encourage communication and collaboration (www.asana.com).

Poor or absent teamwork tends to manifest itself in a couple of ways. First, so-called left-hand/right-hand problems occur when two people are simultaneously working on the same task without communicating. 

The result is at best a waste of time where two people have completed the same task in the time it should have taken one, and at worst a complete failure where both employees fail to achieve the proper outcome that would have arrived should they have communicated amongst themselves.

Passive communication, wherein people are able to update their work statuses and keep track of their teammates progress, is an unobtrusive means of increasing workplace connections and supporting teamwork without an overwhelming volume of communication. Workplace messaging applications such as Asana and Slack allow your team to communicate freely without leaving the comfort of their desk.

In today’s modern technological age, a lack of teamwork can only be blamed on poor initiative. 

There are a plethora of available resources for collaborations that foster teamwork and productive environments, from shared checklists to full-fledged virtual workspaces curated and managed by everyone involved. 

Low Morale/Enthusiasm
The volume and tone you use to speak with your team can affect their performance

It has been well established that there is a sweet spot for the volume of communication in a work environment for fostering positive morale. A recent study suggests that about one-third of employees believe that poor workplace morale is a direct result of poor communication. This can leave people feeling unenthusiastic about their work. Positive feedback is crucial for keeping people interested and engaged.

While too little communication leaves employees and colleagues feeling lost and consequently stressed about a lack of direction, an overabundance may lead to employees simply ignoring incoming emails and phone calls. A good balance is crucial as more and more employees in the US are suggesting that an overload of communication is causing them to feel “burnt out” and affecting their productivity. 

So, while a lack of communication can lead to workplace problems, so too can too much. Find the sweet spot!

Diversity in the workplace can increase team productivty. Read more in 5 Reasons Why Diversity In The Workplace Can Increase Your Bottom Line”

Poor Productivity
Without clear communication, employees can feel lost and without direction

Perhaps the most glaring sign of a problematic work environment is poor productivity. While this may be symptomatic of a range of issues, poor communication is often the culprit. For example, psychologists have shown a lack of specific deadlines changes not only the behaviour of individuals but also the outcome of their work

Employees who are given tasks without a clearly communicated deadline may be less inclined to engage and as a result, their work may suffer. In fact, as deadlines loom, people tend to rely more heavily on their intuition and, as a result, are likely to produce better work. 

This lost productivity has very significant consequences for companies both large and small. A recent survey revealed that poor communication at companies with 1000 or more employees results in an estimated yearly loss of $62.4 million, while companies with 100 employees lose an average of $420,000 per year. These very real losses can turn a company from profitable to bankrupt, all because of poor workplace communication.

Key Takeaways For Proper Communication in the Workplace


Poor workplace communication is far from a simple nuisance. Disrupting or neglecting the positive flow of information in a workplace leads to a lack of effective teamwork, low morale and enthusiasm, and imbues very real consequences through lost productivity. 

Here are 3 key takeaways on how you can improve your workplace communication

  • Find a good balance: Finding a sweet spot for the volume and tone of communications is foundational to any environment and presents an easily addressed problem for those looking to improve the workplace.
  • Encourage communication: Having a policy in place is a good start, but leading by example will motivate your coworkers and employees to do the same
  • Embrace passive communication: Some people’s communication patterns may be unorthodox, but that doesn’t mean you can’t engage them as well. Allowing workers to update their work statuses and keep track of their teammates’ progress is unobtrusive and easy to implement

Written By Vincent Lee

The Managing Editor at Advesa, Vincent is a mechanical keyboard enthusiast, a lover of cats, and a purveyor of fine roasted matcha teas. When not writing, he enjoys exercising and biking around his beautiful hometown of Vancouver. He is also a strong supporter of the oxford comma.