5 Signs Employees are Stuck with a Bad Communicator

Spot the managers likely to cause missed targets and bad relations

5 Signs Employees are Stuck with a Bad CommunicatorThe young-gun that excelled at his job was seen as someone with potential by the executive ranks. He was promoted into a management role, but his glow quickly faded when employees began complaining, turnover was an issue and department targets were missed as often as they were barely hit.

Is he just not management material? Maybe. Or maybe he simply needs training, both in communications and in managing people, to excel in his new role of leading others.

It is assumed that the execution of effective communication is effortless. After all, our example of the recently promoted manager can be assumed to speak, listen, compose emails and communicate in a variety of other ways. He, like each one of us, thinks he is a good communicator who uses good messaging and engages in active listening.

Unfortunately, good communication skills are not easily achieved. Lack of abilities are identified in managers more easily than others because their roles and responsibilities demand good communication in order to support, guide and lead their team. When numbers and deadlines are missed, communication ineffectiveness becomes obvious.

The finger can only be pointed at so many employees before a pattern becomes evident and a manager’s lack of communication skills becomes obvious. It’s a common issue because, like our new manager, companies tend to promote from within and move staff up the ranks because of their job performance. Most companies do not give newly promoted managers training to help them be people focused rather than just job focused.

These common signs indicate when managers may not be communicating as well as they think they are:

  1. I Already Told You Once
    Many managers believe their delivery of instructions and directives is clear, concise and understandable. When repetition is required, the message wasn’t received as intended.
  2. Let’s Talk Fault
    Managers and employees are equally frustrated when mistakes occur. Finger pointing will come to a peak and each party believes their interpretation of the message is correct because it’s easier to deny fault than accept responsibility. When the same situation occurs with multiple employees, the common denominator is the manager and their lack of quality communication. The manager needs to focus on clarity of messages rather than on blame or denial of their own lack of skills.
  3. I’m Sorry
    When things go sideways apologies usually follow. “I’m sorry” is easy to say and is a nice placation that lets people off the hook. Managers need to ensure information and instructions are understood to avoid excess apologies.
  4. Yes, but . . .
    Upon the discovery of errors or omissions, excuses like “but I thought” or “it seemed like,” are often heard as attempts to point out the manager’s lack of communication skills and missed clarity in messaging. The more employees express these statements; the more likely communication is an issue.
  5. Power Talking
    Sometimes managers use authority to solve problems rather than people skills. Following mistakes, I’ve heard managers ask their employees this impossible, dead-end question, “what don’t you understand?” It has no answer because understanding is the problem. Rather than attempting to make the employee look small, foolish or to blame, the manager needs to accept the error of their messaging and help the employee achieve understanding.

When these signs appear in the workplace, it is time for change. Managers must always be aware of their own communication skills and the moments when their ineffectiveness is evident. So where should they start? These questions can help with manager self-assessment. I recommend providing this list to all managers, not just those with obvious communication issues.

  1. Do most of your communications with staff begin with “you”?
  2. Are timelines or deadlines stated early and clearly?
  3. Are the steps of a task defined with clarity?
  4. Do you end conversations with confirmation of understanding?
  5. Do you use words or language that is understood by everyone?
  6. Are employees invited to ask questions during conversations?

The answers to these questions will provide insight as to where skill building is needed.

Follow up from the questions includes a few “shoulds” for managers:

  • Sentences should always start with “I” (E.g.: “I need the report by noon Monday”)
  • Timelines should by clear
  • Tasks should be broken down into manageable units
  • Understanding should be confirmed
  • Conversation should be 2-way

It is every company’s dream to have effective, efficient and goal oriented managers. They want a dream team that can lead, support and inspire staff while promoting both productivity and profitability.

Along these same lines, it is every manager’s dream to run a team that is high functioning, motivated and productive. They want “gems” who take directions and follow instructions.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to make these dreams come true when workplaces are laden with managers who overestimate their communication abilities and skills. Plus, some managers won’t admit they have faults and appear to rely upon the power of their status. Unfortunately, employees or subordinates can’t convince managers they are the problem and encourage communication learning to make everyone’s lives easier.

If you’re seeing the signs of poorly communicating managers in your business, it’s time to turn things around, stop allowing the damage and get the communication skills to benefit everyone. Coaching is a great option because it provides individualized learning to fill communication gaps and correct habitual errors.


If you are ready to take your management team to the next level of communication, contact us today. We will assess each manager and create a coaching plan to bring each one to the top of their conversation game. Contact us at pam@thepossibilities.ca or 604-349-8660.

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This entry was posted by Pam Paquet and is filed under Employee Training, Leadership. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.