Failure to Communicate? Five Tips for a Clearer Office Environment

BY: ON THURSDAY, DECEMBER 05, 2013

We often say that we’re more connected than ever. It’s true, especially given the rapid expansion of the social network and various avenues the modern web offers us to interact with each other. In short, society is more or less plugged in at all times.

While such connectivity creates plenty of opportunities, it also causes a number of challenges for business owners, employees and clients alike:
An organization’s communication quickly becomes fragmented as we obsess with our need for speed versus the finer details. This ultimately causes mishaps, slip-ups and mistakes that can slow your business down. Such miscommunication not only sours relationships and creates a hectic work environment, but may also impact your bottom line.

As efficiency is the name of the game in today’s economy, can you afford to let your communication channels get clogged up?

What do budding businesses need to make sure they’re speaking loud and clear? How can we improve our communication climate without breaking the bank? The following five steps can help you ensure that nothing in your office is getting lost in translation.

Clear Expectations

Most of the roadblocks we face, either between ourselves, employees or clients, can be avoided altogether through honesty. While we may want things done in a certain way, we can’t expect those around us to read our minds. It’s necessary to be specific when it comes to our expectations rather than hoping that others will meet them right off the bat.

When requesting a new project from a client or employee, set the groundwork clearly through email or in-person. Having rubrics or resources that others can refer to can help avoid mistakes and will ultimately lead to the project being finished the “right” way. Also consider that some people need more guidance than others. Keep it simple yet make sure you’re hitting the most crucial points. By providing clear expectations, you set yourself up to get things right the first time.

Educate, Don’t Intimidate

But let’s say that things don’t get done right the first time.

What’s the next step? An angry phone call? A nasty email? A bit of humiliation?

No. Consider that being feared or intimidating does not necessarily correlate with effective leadership. Instead, consider that workers respond better to praise versus fear. Motivation matters to small businesses and their employees; rather than focusing on the negatives, try emphasizing the positives. Your office will be more inclined to rally around you and do decent work if you’re offering constructive criticism rather than a screaming match.

If someone makes a critical mistake on a new project, let them know what they did right alongside with what went wrong. Try to find out what led to their mistakes and see if it was a fault in your own instructions or wording. Additionally, see if there are others within your organization who can offer to support and perhaps tag-team the project in the future.

Never Assume

Small businesses are taught to always ensure that their decisions are backed up by data. We research for hours on end. We crunch the numbers. We A/B test.. We learn just about everything we can in anticipation of a future product or project.

Unfortunately, things will not always go the way you planned. Ask just about any business owner; sometimes all the planning in the world can’t prevent a costly mistake. In today’s economy, such mistakes are fairly common.

In response, it’s crucial to always have a Plan B on hand. Understand what worse-case scenarios may be lurking around the corner and make sure that you and your employees aren’t caught off guard if something goes wrong. Putting too many eggs in one basket has the potential to sink your business. It’s important to never put yourself in such a situation.

Monitor for Milestones

Perhaps it’s a bit of a cliche, but let’s consider how running a business is less about the start or finish, but rather the journey.

Motivational bumper stickers aside, you can often avoid snafus if you can keep an eye on your progress, understand red flags and catch them accordingly. Keep things from going astray by keeping a close eye on what’s going on around you. Awareness of your surroundings is always beneficial to business owners.

Just as you should never make assumptions, you should make sure that progress is actually being made.
Remember, while you are accountable for your business’ success, you’re always accountable for its failures. Actively participate in your business and make sure that someone within your organization is keeping an eye on the finer details.

Provide Feedback

Once again, an effective business and office rely on honesty.

People can’t be scared to speak out or be intimidated by what someone else might have to say about them or their work. Likewise, you can’t grow as a leader or worker without taking a bit of criticism yourself. Constructive criticism should be able to circulate the office in a way that's appropriate and comfortable.

Establish a feedback system and create an office environment that is conducive to such feedback. As always, emphasize the positives. By breeding an environment of honesty and positivity within your organization, you’ll acquire workers that will communicate clearly and effectively with one another.

The Bottom Line

Many of the above principles are interchangeable for most small businesses. By following them, you’ll be on your way to a more harmonious office and connected business. The same rules apply no matter who you’re dealing with. Ask yourself; is your office making itself loud and clear?

Image via Shutterstock

About the Author

Brent Barnhart

Brent Barnhart is a freelance content writer specializing in topics such as Internet marketing and content marketing for small businesses. His goal is to help business owners find their voices online and improve their content strategies. You can reach Brent or find out more at brentwrites.com.

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