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5 Employee Communication Bad Habits You Need to Break

Posted by Sandy Yu on 8.15.2019

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Whether it’s a quick email, an informal chat by the watercooler, or an official company announcement, every employee communication counts. Unfortunately, bad habits have the potential to slip their way into all forms of employee communication. These are powerful enough to harm the employee experience, performance, and even cause employees to leave.

So we asked experts to share the most frequent employee communication bad habits they see leaders engaging in -- and may not realize are hurting their relationships with employees. If you’re guilty of any of these bad habits, it’s time to change your employee communication strategy.

Not tailoring the message to employees

Employees don’t care about how something is good for management or the company in general nearly as much as they care about what’s in it for them. Even tough messages can be better received if they clearly describe “What’s In It For Me” from the employee’s perspective. Copy of Copy of 200x200 headshot (32)

In the same vein, only include information that is relevant and important to employees. People can only absorb so much information at one time. Remember, your communication is already competing with thousands of other messages. Don’t muddy the waters by adding extraneous information. You won’t enhance understanding or soften the blow, you’ll just confuse people or encourage them to ignore you. 

Tim Toterhi, Founder of Plotline Leadership

Unclear emails

Employees receive hundreds of emails every week. Internal communicators owe it to employees to have a standardized subject line format that defines content and urgency. In this way, emails are easy to find, easy to prioritize, and will tend to be opened and answered quicker than those from other people. 

Copy of Copy of 200x200 headshot (33)Clarity doesn’t end with the subject line -- the body of your emails should lay out exactly what is expected. Stop hiding requests in the middle of a long explanation or apology. If you need a specific action or answer, ask for what you want clearly and succinctly in either the first sentence of your communication or the last. 

Give a timeframe for delivery and any other details that get you the results you need, but make sure your request is easy to find and simple to understand. It will take more time and frustration to go back and forth clarifying a request than by asking directly. Teams appreciate knowing what is needed, in what format, and by what date.

Erica McCurdy, Founder of McCurdy Solutions Group

Only focusing on the negative

It is difficult for anyone in the workplace to communicate negative feedback or criticism, but make sure you communicate positive feedback too. It’s important to give critical feedback so employees can improve, but remember to celebrate the wins. No one enjoys being surrounded by negativity, and everyone has positive attributes. Remember, constant negative communication in the workplace destroys morale and affects employee’s attitudes and motivation levels. 

Steve Pritchard, HR Consultant for Anglo Liners 

Ignoring bad news

If a difficult decision is made, like pay cuts or layoffs, or bad news needs shared, like announcing poor sales or missing quarterly results, be honest and tell employees. When senior leaders don't communicate and go radio silent, employees often assume the worst, even if it isn't true. 

It's important not to let information get out ahead of the organization's formal communication channels. If an employee leaves the organization or some other major news occurs or change happens, the first communication should come from the organization, not from employees speaking with each other and playing whisper down the lane for days or weeks. Copy of Copy of 200x200 headshot (34)

News often spreads like wildfire. Many times, employees know when another employee has left the organization before receiving a formal communication, so the communication is old news by the time it's received. 

The best way to change this bad habit is for senior leaders to have regularly-scheduled written messages, like emails, that all employees receive at the same time. Send these communications as soon as possible to get a jump on the rumor mill. 

Amanda Ponzar, Chief Communications & Strategy Officer for Community Health Charities

Failing to engage

This isn't new information, but is still a factor of communication many people overlook. An engaged listener should stay off their phone or laptop, angle their body toward you, incline their head your way, and use frequent eye contact to show they're engaged in the conversation. 

When you really listen, you’ll hear the subtle intonations in someone’s voice that tell you how that person is feeling and the emotions they’re trying to communicate. Try to focus in, show interest, and provide feedback during conversations. 

Amanda Hagley, Content Marketing Manager for Verb


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Topics: employee communications, workplace communication, leadership communication

Human Resources Today