The Subtle Signs Sabotaging Your Company’s Success

6 signs that poor communication means something more

Every company has its share of communication issues, but how do you know whether those issues are indicative of poor skills or deeper problems? If you recognize any of these 6 communication issues in your workplace, you may be dealing with a company’s worst enemy working incognito and sabotaging efficient and effective business.

It doesn’t require a magnifying glass to see when people are communicating in ways that are undesirable; but it can be something of a “Where’s Waldo” exercise because these signs are subtle and don’t always shed light on the real issue. Problems can be easy to overlook when the usual indicators of workplace problems like absenteeism, lack of engagement or inability to focus are not obvious. These subtler communication issues shouldn’t be ignored as they often point to larger problems that are able to hide or fly under the radar.

Mixed MessagesUnderperformance is common in many companies and it can be challenging to identify as well as to correct. Unfortunately the issues triggering communication problems and reducing performance are not usually seen as “problem gauges” that prompt investigation, understanding and early correction. Identifying any of these 6 signs can lead to uncovering the larger issues behind them and help to prevent wasted resources, delays in discovery and potentially explosive situations.

  1. Electronic Traffic
    When email and text volume is on the increase, it can be a sign of communication challenges. There may be valid reasons, like a new project or increased responsibility, but increased traffic may also be a clue that face to face interactions are being avoided. When employees are uneasy, facing a complex conversation or feeling a confrontation is on the horizon, they often revert to less direct modes of communication like email or text. Unfortunately these methods magnify deeper issues of grudges, personality clashes and may turn into electronic warfare.
  2. Body Language Says it All
    Non-verbal communication speaks volumes and is difficult to hide or disguise. No matter what is being said, if anything, eye contact and facial expressions can reveal frustration, surprise, anger and resentment. When employees use non-verbal modes of communication problems are already present and will only escalate.
  3. Micro Leads to Macro Problems
    Overly involved managers often make things worse when they step in to resolve problems. While generally well-meaning, micro-managers who insist on being a conduit create a dangerous situation. Because they take control of the interaction, the overall problem is ignored and communication is erroneous due to second-hand translation and filtering.
  4. Silence is Harmful, Not Golden
    Courtesy, and general business etiquette, dictate that messages, questions and inquiries receive a timely response. Going silent rather than replying sends a message of resistance, rudeness and disrespect. Alternatively, a response may be received, but only after a deliberately prolonged delay that seems to be passive-aggressive or an attempt at withholding information. These tactics can indicate conflict, an ulterior motive or control issues.
  5. Too Many Words
    Email is an important and efficient tool when used correctly, but when directives get lost in excessive verbiage, vagueness or lack specific direction, recipients will be left wondering what to do. No one benefits from emails that are verbose in an effort to soften an order or “friendly up” a request. Without specific questions, instructions or intentions, frustration is inevitable and will lead to a “delete” or hasty reply.
  6. Meeting for the Sake of Meeting
    Meetings, while often essential, can be used inappropriately, like when the intended agenda gets put aside in exchange for a group share, witch-hunt or other unproductive activity. This kind of get-together is not only a poor use of work time, it can also lead to popularity contests and group pity parties.

These 6 signals are subtle and can easily be ignored, but don’t be the manager or business that overlooks them. The underlying issues are more than one-off concerns and won’t right themselves. If left unchecked, what seemed like poor communication skills has the ability to reduce the strength of a team as well as undermine productivity, morale and culture.

Seemingly innocent communication problems require immediate identification and correction to reveal the underlying problems.

If you suspect communication habits are hiding underperformance in your workplace, contact us at or 604-349-8660 to schedule a free strategy session.

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