If I had $1 for every time I heard someone say that communication was poor within the organization, I would have $6,750.
Factor 250 working days a year x 1 communication is poor comment a day x 27 years working in an office environment = $6,750.
Enough for a small vacation perhaps.
To be candid, early on in my career, I likely said the same thing one thousand times.
That said, out of all the instances, very few times did I hear practical ideas to improve communication.
This made me realize that perhaps the problem was not with communication, yet perhaps the issue was with the word itself.
The word communication can mean a substantial amount and might be too big to resolve or solve with one simple solution.
As such, I decided to endeavor to dissect the word communication based on my observations around the time when people would make the comment that communication was poor.
Here is some of what I observed and some of my own considerations.
First, a lack of transparency on decision-making.
Have you ever had an initiative, task, or idea placed upon you to implement or perform yet you had no idea where this mandate came from?
Early on in my career, this happened to us front-line employee all the time.
This accounted for a few hundred of my communication is poor comments.
Next, layer upon layer of approvals required for even the simplest things.
Should buying stationary be complicated? Yet, if someone was buying Montblanc pens for the office, some approval measures may be justified.
We are all on autopilot sometimes and maybe too often.
People don’t remember to inform, people are not in the habit of asking, then when something large happens that has impact, the flow of information comes later or after the fact.
When you are on autopilot, you are not doing things purposely and consciously. There is not necessarily a secret agenda.
Yes, people can exaggerate and exaggerate a lot. And, this can happen at all levels.
Not everything has serious negative consequences and not everyone is out to get you just because they forgot to inform you of something.
Egos and insecurities.
Some people might feel insecure and hence reluctant to share for various reasons. One reason among them may be that they fear losing their position, power, and authority if everyone knows what they know.
In such instance, some empathy may be required in lieu of suspicion.
And lastly, not everyone needs to know everything instantly.
Sorry, if something does not directly involve you in any way, you might not be the first person consulted. It does not necessarily mean communication is poor.
What I have learned is that at the end of the day, the larger the organization or the team, some of what I describe above may be prevalent.
Hence, when I come across this, instead of saying communication is poor, I try and get more granularity by asking questions.
For example, it is completely legitimate to ask what the decision-making process is for important new projects.
Another example would be with purchasing, if policies don’t exist, ask that they be formulated.
As front-line staff members, ask for communication to come early and to come often even if you don’t have a seat at the decision making table.
Lastly, those in leadership can also ask people to ask questions when they have concerns instead of assuming leadership does not want to openly communicate.
Better communication lies with all of us at all levels.
Turn your communication deficit into a communication surplus.