Workplace communication has become more complicated with the rise of technology. These days, it’s so much more than in-person conversation, notices in your paycheck, or posters in the workroom. So it’s critical that employees and their managers create an environment where workplace communication is clear, transparent, accessible, and most importantly—understood.
That means knowing how, where, and when to reach workers. Understand how to set clear objectives and build motivation when you do so, and know what can happen when you don’t.
Why communicating in the workplace between managers and employees is important
Open, honest, and clear communication in the workplace is necessary when building employee and manager relations, not to mention your overall business. It helps outline goals and expectations, allows workers to understand what’s a priority and why, and gives them the opportunity to check-in on progress and potential roadblocks.
Communication also supports the health of workplace relationships, especially between managers and their staff. When communication in the workplace is done right, it can create an optimal environment for feedback and open dialogue. This helps employees improve their performance while also letting managers know what may be preventing them from achieving their goals.
For example, an exemplary staff member might be showing up to work late every Monday. Without a way to provide honest communication, their manager might not realize that opening up the shop on the first day of the week isn’t ideal for this employee. And not just because Mondays are Mondays, but because they have two school-aged kids which results in rushed breakfasts, frantic wardrobe changes, and morning traffic.
With the right type of workplace communication, the employee could easily view their up-to-date schedule at any time, reach out to coworkers about switching shifts, or message their manager about potential conflicts: like their kids fighting over who gets shotgun on the drive to school. Meanwhile, lack of communication could easily turn a fixable situation into a harsh reprimand, which could result in a disgruntled employee—or worse, an employee who decides the job just isn’t worth it, and quits on the spot.
Last but not least, communication in the workplace between employees and managers fosters a sense of trust between both parties. According to the Harvard Business Review, when leaders share information or give more insight into their decision making process, they gain trust with their employees thanks to their increased level of transparency. This is even true in difficult situations, like budget cuts or layoffs, which are all too prevalent in today’s economy.
Without trust mixed into your recipe for workplace communication, you might find that the rumor mill may run wild or that staff become disengaged and withdrawn from the team, your business, and the customers they serve.
Although communication isn’t always easy, with the right tools, it can be improved. But first, you need to know what’s preventing it.
Common workplace communication struggles for managers
There’s a reason why so many courses, degrees, and training sessions are focused on workplace communication: it can be hard. Especially for managers who don’t have the tools or technology to do it and do it well. This level of difficulty can result in no communication at all or breakdowns in how information is communicated.
One common struggle that managers can have with workplace communication is feeling like they’re not connected with staff. This lack of connectedness can stem from managers realizing that the tools they’re using aren’t the same as their staff. For example, a manager may be sending schedule changes, invites and staff updates over email, but their employees use text messages to communicate with each other.
This struggle might also come from having too many tools or ways of connecting. If managers implement a variety of platforms to communicate—email, personal texts, DMs, or notice boards—instead of using one streamlined communication tool that’s widely adopted by all staff, there may be a lack of clarity in the messages, or some might get missed entirely. Employees also might think their manager is over communicating, which can be mistaken for micromanaging.
Managers might also feel like they’re not being heard or understood, or realize that employees believe the same thing for themselves. This is where active listening can help.
According to the Center of Creative Leadership, “active listening requires you to listen attentively to a speaker, understand what they’re saying, respond and reflect on what’s being said, and retain the information for later.” This type of listening is different from critical listening, where the listener is evaluating the message and then offering their own opinion, instead of making the speaker feel heard.
The risks of a breakdown in communication between managers and their employees
When breakdowns in workplace communication take place, both the teammates and the business can be impacted, leaving a lot at risk. Let’s take scheduling conflicts, for example.
According to the Economic Policy Institute, irregular scheduling is most prevalent in industries such as:
- Personal services
- Business and repair services
- Entertainment and recreation
- Financial sectors, including real estate
- Retail trade
- Transportation communications.
The same source explains that 45% of workers who were surveyed say that their employer is the one who decides their work schedule, and only 15% believed that they were “free to decide”.
So, what happens when workplace communication is lacking? Shifts can be missed, employees can feel like their needs are not heard, morale can drop, and customers might not get the same level of service.
Businesses that suffer from a breakdown in communication between managers and their employees may also start to show signs of a toxic workplace. This is when significant personal conflicts between employees are present, taking the form of bullying, resentment, trust issues, and cliques.
Toxic workplaces come with a hefty price tag. In a recent workplace-culture report by the Society for Human Resource Management, it was reported that 1 in 5 Americans have left a job in the past five years because of toxic work cultures, costing businesses about $223 billion. Yes, billion.
4 tips to improve workplace communication between managers and employees
It’s not just that communication is key; the right kind of communication is key, and the right tools can help you unlock a more cohesive, more productive team.
1. Be clear and concise
Workplace communication can suffer when managers or employees use jargon, aren’t clear about what they need or their expectations, or over-communicate. Being clear and concise means understanding who your audience is and delivering a message in a way that they would understand it.
For example, a manager might say to an employee who’s usually late, “I don’t want to beat around the bush, but maybe it could be better if you showed up on time, if that works? If not, maybe just call me or send a text or an email. Whatever is good for you.”
With this type of communication, the employee is left wondering about their next steps and isn’t clear about the expectations of their manager. Should they strive to show up early? Is being late okay if they let the boss know? If they don’t have time to do either, would that be fine, too?
Clear and concise communication helps managers exude confidence, and supports employees by creating a workplace that helps them understand exactly how they can thrive.
2. Be an active listener
Active listening goes deeper than hearing what someone is saying. It’s about hearing it, understanding where they are coming from, and reflecting on what they need. It’s no surprise: by being an active listener in the workplace, you’re showing empathy and compassion, and also helping employees get to the root of their problems.
Active listening isn’t about jumping into problem solving mode, but instead taking the time to break down struggles and barriers, then communicating collaboratively to solve them.
3. Have an open-door policy
If you want to improve workplace communication, an open-door policy is a must. And yes, this is true even without a physical door to open.
An open-door policy shows employees that you’re there and that you care. It solicits feedback from your workers and gives them the chance to communicate with you versus just with other coworkers.
An open-door policy can be implemented online, too. To make it work, staff need to know when and where they can reach you. A workplace messaging app can make this easy for team members so they don’t have to search for your cell number, or worry about messaging their boss during your personal time.
Staff should also know your boundaries, and you should know theirs. For example, you may allow teammates to connect with you over email at any time, on the team communication app between 8am and 8pm, or anytime in person, but you commit to no reaching out to them outside of your business’s working hours.
4. Use the right medium
Knowing how, where, and when your employees want to communicate is just as important as the communication itself. Consider the age of your employees, where they get their information, and how they communicate with one another.
Keep in mind that this might differ for different employees. For example, you and the head barista might agree that chatting in person before the morning rush is best, but you and the operations lead might want to stick to a workplace messaging app that helps track goals, feedback, while also storing notes and reviews for each employee’s profiles.
If you’re working with Gen Zers, you’’ likely want to consider an approach that involves a smartphone. One study shows that 96 percent of Gen Zers own a smartphone and more than 50% spend a minimum of 10 hours a day on electronic devices. That said, they still appreciate in-person connection, so following up e-communications with conversations at the workplace is equally important.
Workplace communication tools businesses can use to tackle communication struggles
When it comes to workplace efficiency and boosting morale, communication and the tools that do it are both equally important. Here’s what to look for if you’re facing communication struggles in the workplace.
A centralized place for communication
DMs, Slack messages, texts, emails, and sticky notes on the staff-room cupboards can all be great for communicating here and there, but a streamlined communication approach that every staff member can use can be much more efficient for your business.
Look for ways that connect all staff together using one app, like a messenger tool that lets you instantly create groups for quick requests, like covering someone’s shift or fixing the fridge that’s broken again.
Centralized apps that let you send helpful reminders for shifts, clock outs, and scheduling updates, are also ideal for making sure everyone’s on the same page. A quick note to thank a team member for tackling their first closing shift paired with a heads-up about the finicky alarm can help turn a stressful shift into a blissful one.
An open place for communication
Giving team members the autonomy to manage their own schedules or changes to shifts can be a huge plus for staff, especially when it can be done efficiently and transparently.
Apps that let staff have access to their most up-to-date schedule, hours worked, and earnings, plus reminders for upcoming shifts and ways to communicate with one another to coordinate trades and covers can make employees feel like they have a bit more control over their role, which can be a big boost to morale and positivity.
A way to collect feedback
Want feedback or need to give some? Sometimes that’s easier said than done, especially when you want to be able to track it.
If that’s the case at your business, look for a tool that gives you the flexibility to collect feedback from employees. Even a simple daily question at the end of every shift provides instant and frequent feedback, giving you a real-time look at employee sentiment. Implementing this one tool helps you and your team understand trends over time. For instance, maybe the mid-afternoon shift is too busy for a team of three, which is why everybody wants to give it up but no one will take it.
The more you know about your team, your workplace, and your business, the better—and the better your team can perform.
A tool for transparency
Transparency builds trust, so a tool that lets you communicate in this manner is key to tackling workplace communication issues. Apps that give your whole management team real-time visibility into your business can help them understand what’s going on at any given moment and how they can help. This boosts confidence and trust, and lets staff know that you feel confident in their performance to know and grow the business.
Workplace communication FAQS
How do you resolve manager employee conflict?
Workplace communication skills can be extremely useful when resolving manager and employee conflicts. An open-door policy is a good first step to ease conflicts or prevent them from escalating, but if they do arise, active listening is important. Ensure you hear concerns and remind both parties to reflect before jumping to conclusions or trying to identify a solution right away.
Before starting the discussion, the details of where, when, and how to communicate should be agreed upon.
No matter the medium you’re using, each individual should use empathy and compassion, then work together to solve the issue and determine the next best steps to achieve your goals.
What does a breakdown in manager employee communication look like?
Breakdowns in manager employee communication are never fun, especially in a busy workplace. It can happen for many various reasons, like shifts being missed without proper notification or coverage, insufficient feedback from managers, or workplace communication methods going array.
When this happens, a business might have to spend extra time and energy on operational duties, like tracking hours and employee shifts, or communicating with staff to figure out who worked when and for how long.
This can lead to reduced productivity, and even decreased morale if employees feel like they’re being punished for trading shifts without using the proper protocols.
Where can you learn better management communication skills?
There are a number of online and in-person options to learn better management communication skills.
Online webinars, coaching sessions, and courses are all available to help you become a more effective communicator and trusted leader. Free, online quizzes like the Myers-Briggs test are also available to help you get a better idea of how you work best and how to better work with your team.
Working with a qualified HR team can also help provide general communication guidance and recommendations to overall streamline your team communication.
What are the advantages of using communication tools to resolve communication struggles?
Communication tools can help resolve communication struggles in many ways. The first, and perhaps the most obvious, is that they help with clear and concise communication. With the right tools and apps, you’re able to track hours, progress, and goals for employees, all while giving staff the autonomy to manage their work life, including shift trades and shout outs to team members.
Communication is more than in-the-shop chats and breakroom banter. At a workplace, it can help boost morale, keep everyone organized and happy, and help grow your business. Ready to kick your workplace communication up a few notches, and run a better team while you’re at it?
Create your free Homebase account today.