Poor interpersonal communication seems to some up quite frequently these days when people are discussing workplace issues or analysing the reasons behind various problems. But is it really the felon, or has some underlying situation caused the communication breakdown? Is ‘poor communication’ becoming a scapegoat that allows us to ignore the real problems plaguing the workplace? How often do organisations mistake ‘poor communication’ as the real problem when in actual fact it is merely a symptom?
Let’s say someone on your team has something to contribute to a discussion, but sits silently because you are known to talk over the top of people and put down ideas when someone appears to offer an alternative point of view. Poor communication is the result – but the cause is lack of trust based on prior experiences.
What will happen if professionals don’t pass necessary information along to support staff? Poor communication is the inevitable result but the cause might well be lack of respect or consideration.
Today, many workplaces contain employees of varying ethnic, religious and cultural backgrounds. In such situations miscommunication is almost inevitable, but if it happens a lot you might want to examine whether the underlying cause is a lack of understanding or even intolerance. Poor communication may be the effect rather than the cause, and an underlying prejudice may be the real issue.
The point is when you hear poor communication cited as the cause of a problem, you would do well to probe a little deeper before deciding how to respond – communication issues are seldom ever just skin-deep.