Top 7 Signs of Poor Team Communication

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Josie Copeland

One of the main drivers of success in a company is in a team’s ability to work well together. Poor communication can prevent employees from reaching their true potential.

Here are 7 signs to help you recognize the early warning signs that there has been a breakdown in team communication:

1. The Finished Product Isn’t What Was Expected

If you consistently find that you are expecting a different result from what you receive then you may have a problem with communication.

If people don’t have a clear understanding on what is required of them, it’s pretty unlikely that they are going to do a good job. Find different ways to clearly communicate the aim, desired outcome and timeframe of every project.

2. Different Teams Don’t Trust Each Other

Teams that don’t trust each other quickly start blaming, avoiding or assuming the worst about each other. Individuals may become wary of other teams, believing that they are ‘unreliable’ or ‘difficult’ to work with.

Leaders can start cultivating trust by encouraging employees to spend more time with people outside of their immediate team. Oftentimes rigid team structures with little to no cross-team interaction can prevent employees from learning more about others teams and departments.

3. Employees Tattling on Their Colleagues

‘Telling’ or ‘Tattling’, when team members run to tell others everything that happens behind closed doors, is one of the early signs of team dysfunction. If left uncontrolled, cliques eventually form which worsens silos and diminish company culture.

Recognize when team members begin to frequently tell on others by assigning blame and/or over-defending their own behaviours. Often this highlights a fear of failure and/or a lack of trust and safety.

4. Work is Being Duplicated

When communication is compromised, employees quickly become unsure about what each team is responsible for. This can result in work being duplicated, causing an inefficient use of time.

Building a culture of open and clear communication can promote knowledge sharing and prevent work being duplicated.

5. Lack of Alignment on Priorities

Unclear tasks and assignments can lead teams to move in different directions. This is quickly compounded by a continued lack of communication, which enables departments to steer further off course.

Managers should be mindful of how they communicate overall company strategy to various teams and departments. Ensuring that employees understand how daily tasks directly contribute to a shared goal can highlight their shared purpose.

6. There is No Conflict — Only Agreement

As teams become increasingly dysfunctional, employees will often start to withdraw. A lack of conflict in team meetings, where people often simply agree or don’t say anything, it is one of the main signs that something is wrong.

This subtle shift could be caused by multiple things: a fear of ‘rocking the boat’, loosing respect amongst colleagues, or a lack of interest or motivation on the topic of discussion.

7. Ideas Are Often Shot Down

The way employees react to ideas presented by others speaks volumes to their communication skills. If their first reaction is to shoot down new ideas, then there may be some underlying fears or uncertainties preventing proper communication.

To help employees be more self-reflective on their current communication skills, they could ask themselves the following questions:

  • What is between you and listening?
  • Are you feeling irritated/hurt/angry/frustrated/confused/insecure?
  • Are you afraid to spend too much time entertaining a “bad” idea?
  • Are you afraid that listening may encourage them?
  • Are you concerned by the time or resources necessary to carry out this project?
  • Are you afraid that this idea could result in more work?
  • Can you give this person the space to explain their idea and vision without letting your fears or insecurities get in the way?

Respectful communication should be the norm, but it can take time! Schedule 30 minutes each month for employees to meet colleagues from different teams or departments to create a routine. Spending time discussing projects, insights and ideas helps employees to develop essential communication skills and expand their knowledge and understanding of other areas of the business.

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