Communication Faux Pas that Kill Efficiency

Identify the Talk that Hinders Workflow

An efficient workplace comes from a number of good practices, and one that is critical is good communication. When efficiency is declining in a business, there is a tendency to shy away from communication and focus instead on the hard facts of numbers, statistics and rates.

This attention to the numbers is easier for management when looking to solve problems. If it’s there in black and white, it should be easy to resolve the areas in need of improvement. Unfortunately the information gleaned from numbers only describes where the problem is but not necessarily why it is a problem. Deep research into the numbers only gives insights into fluctuations, tendencies and patterns; not solutions.

The numbers must be put aside and the focus shifted to people and how they communicate to resolve efficiency problems. People brought together in a business environment are not friends or family members; differences and preferences become evident. People are unique, so learning to communicate and work well together is an important skill to foster in the workplace.

Numbers are analyzed with our eyes, but efficiency busters should be identified with our ears. Here are five issues commonly found in companies:

Efficiency Buster #1:  Qualifiers Everywhere

Qualifiers create confusion and frustration, with the most common being “but”. Although dropped casually in conversations like “um”, people overlook its possible damage. “But” stalls talks because it is resistance to an idea or plan. It is a subtle and polite way to say “no”.  For example:  I like your idea, but I think we should do it this way.

Efficiency Buster #2:  “Not Me” Responsibility

 “It’s not me” or “It wasn’t me” is another familiar efficiency buster. Unfortunately this is accepted by management and others because of the false logic often presented. Phrases like: “I am still waiting . . .” or “I didn’t hear back from . . .” shift the blame to others – commonly known as throwing others under the bus. This is often accepted as truth without exploring the situation more deeply.

Efficiency Buster #3:  Negative Attitudes

When a person’s glass is half empty, talk is negative and impacts efficiency and the ability to work together. Statements like “I should have . . .”, “Why won’t . . .” or “We didn’t . . .” all focus on the negative, the error or the wrong. Rarely do these conversations shift to the positive where options, solutions and change are considered. It is too easy for people to focus on the ½ empty rather than positive talk and the ½ full.

Efficiency Buster #4:  Who Cares?

Clarity is essential for efficient working relationships and the best responses are “yes” or “no”. When people are complacent, the tell-tale signs are replies such as “sure”, “fine” or “whatever”. These are usually passive-aggressive responses: compliance is heard but the follow through will be absent. It’s simply resistance with no desire to speak the truth, object or confront.

Efficiency Buster #5:  Do as I say

A third party may hear this efficiency buster as helpful and providing guidance. However to the receiver, it can sound demeaning, derogatory and may cause resentment. Preaching comes in a few forms, but phrases generally begin with: “You should . . .”, “You ought to . . .” or “What I would do is . . .”.  The communicator may be oblivious to the negativity yet the receiver will likely hear inferences of incapability, incompetence or inexperience.

When numbers are put aside and the focus is on listening to staff communicate, the occurrences of efficiency busters may astound even the most successful teams, departments and companies. How are these problems fixed? With three simple steps.

Step One:  Awareness

This step has already begun just by reading this article. Most people are not naturals at understanding communication so having an awareness of their own habits is key. Know the five efficiency busters and be aware of trigger words like: but, waiting, should’ve, won’t/don’t, sure, fine, whatever, etc. 

Step Two:  Patrolling

Share the education by helping others recognize when they use one of the trigger words or an efficiency buster. Most times, trigger words are just bad habits that have evolved over time. Rather than being accusatory (i.e. “you said . . .”), try implementing an agreed upon hand gesture or simple signal. Something like saying “oops”, popping up the index finger or making a time out sign with the hands.  The intent is recognition of the error and stopping the current direction of the conversation. Help others become aware and make the workplace a positive source of communication.

Step Three: Do Over

Use recognition as an opportunity to have a “do over”. Try saying the message again in a way that avoids the efficiency buster or trigger word. There is no limit on time or errors so start with, “Let me try that again . . .”.  If it is difficult, ask for ideas or suggestions to create positive communication and replace the word or get around the efficiency buster.

Communication that is effective and efficient is a teachable skill that will positively impact finances. Not taking the time to communicate well will cost you money, customers, orders, contracts and more.

When employees are aware of how they contribute to conversations, help each other identify bad habits and offer opportunities to change communication, then business processes, operations and workflow can be far more efficient and profitable.  Companies can spend all the time and money they want on numbers and statistics but this must be done in tandem with helping staff communicate better and more productively.

If your workplace is ready to put aside the numbers and focus on the return on investment (ROI) by investing in your management team, contact us at  We can get rid of efficiency busters and change communication in your workplace so you see better results.

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