In a Korean TV show, Coffee Prince, a bunch of people are setting up a new café. Everything from the interiors to the kitchen is getting an overhaul.
One of the employees is tasked with ordering twenty, two-kilo bags of roasted coffee beans. But since she’s preoccupied, she delegates it to her coworker who accidentally orders twenty, twenty-kilo bags of coffee beans.
Of course, this costs them a bomb, an overhead none of them expected as a small-scale café.
Miscommunication is just as prevalent in today’s workplace as it’s ever been. Even with all the fancy processes and procedures in place, an incorrectly-phrased email or a few missing words can lead to major losses, wasted efforts and time.
A lot of resources are invested in every communication that takes place in a professional setting. Avoiding miscommunication is critical for streamlining tasks, saving time and effort.
Discover reasons and examples of miscommunication and how to avoid it.
What Is Miscommunication?
The meaning of miscommunication is unsuccessful communication. Miscommunication is when you’re trying to convey one thing, but the message’s receiver understands something entirely different. There can be several reasons for miscommunication.
Some of these are:
- Coded messages that require a deeper level of understanding or presence of mind
- Incoherent sentences or phrases that don’t quite capture the intent and meaning of the speaker or sender
- Inaccurate messaging that may lead to significant damages to the organization
- A distracted sender, or receiver, who doesn’t understand the message in its entirety
- Bad connections over Wi-Fi, especially when everyone’s working in different time-zones or remotely
The causes of miscommunication can be anything from inarticulate messaging to weak networks. It’s not just skill-based. It can be a misheard word or simply because the receiver is too busy to properly understand what’s being communicated. For instance, if you’re on the phone with your manager and someone in the office is offering you donuts, you may just miss out on critical information being shared.
Miscommunication can often be resolved by following up or requesting the sender to repeat what they said. However, there are times where we hold back from clarifying our doubts. This may stem from a fear of being judged, reprimanded or even dismissed. Even if you have to trouble the sender, it’s always better to clarify what the message is. You can be tasked with conveying it to a group of people or other members of your team. To be able to frame a message correctly, you need to understand it first.
Examples Of Miscommunication
You’ll encounter examples of miscommunication almost on a daily basis. It can be even more deep-rooted than an incorrect message. Your friend may have asked you to meet them at 9 am in front of the cafe near your house. But you misheard this as the cafe near their house.
The reasons for miscommunication can include personal biases and prejudices against something or someone. You may not be able to hear or read what a person is saying because of these biases.
Here are some examples of miscommunication:
- Malika is a communications associate with a big pharmaceutical firm. Every day she has to handle social media efforts, email marketing and customer relationship management. As an expert in her field, she prides herself in her ability to communicate in an articulate, concise and impactful manner. One day her manager tells her to send emails to eighty top clients for an event. Malika, distracted with notifications, didn’t hear her manager speak to her. The following day, when no emails have been sent out, she unsurprisingly is called in for a meeting. She’s great at her job as a communications associate but in office, she often finds herself distracted and unfocused.
- Hope prides himself in being a social butterfly. He’s the life of the party at social events in the office, always bringing a smile to everyone’s face. Once, he was tasked with making a speech at an event—a formal gathering of employees. The speech was to be about product-related announcements, but Hope missed that part of the assignment. He thought it was just a way to liven the mood, completely overlooking the purpose.
- Priti’s manager sends her an email on Friday. There is some work to be done over the weekend, to be delivered by Monday, 9 AM. In all the excitement of it being a Friday, she completely misses the email and leaves for a getaway. When Monday rolls around, her manager asks her for the deliverables and she has absolutely no answer.
Many of these examples would have had a positive conclusion if both the sender and the receiver were on the same page. One of the major causes of miscommunication is when team members aren’t able to understand each other, which then translates to missed deadlines, incorrect deliverables and, in some cases, a hostile work environment.
How To Avoid Miscommunication
An effective way to avoid miscommunication is by building communication skills. Speaking, listening, writing or reading are ways in which we communicate. In the workplace, speaking effectively is key for successfully completing projects.
Here’s how to avoid miscommunication within a team:
Be As Articulate As Possible
One of the most important skills you can build for yourself is being an articulate communicator. How to explain a complex concept or task in a few words. Articulation is truly a superpower—especially in a professional setting. If you’re in a leadership role, it’s even more important for you to be clear when communicating with junior employees. You have to give them work, review their work or simply work together with them. In each case, they’ll be hanging on to your every word. If you’re not able to explain yourself well, that’s going to affect the entire chain of communication.
Ask Questions In Case Of Doubts
The one thing many of us don’t do is ask the right questions. You may have received a brief on an important task. If there are aspects of it that aren’t clear, clarifying things right from the beginning is a lot more effective than delivering something wrong. You may get flak for asking repeated questions. But once you start clarifying your doubts, you’ll find it easier to understand assignments in future. For instance, if someone asks you to fill up a tracker at the end of the week, you may get it wrong the first few times. But eventually you’ll start doing it without needing a nudge.
Identify The Problem
The reasons for miscommunication may be more deep-seated than you think. You may be holding back with communication because you’re too afraid to ask questions. Your manager may have constructive feedback for how you need to communicate. Talk to the right people to get to the bottom of the problem. It can be factors like being distracted at work, having too much on your plate or pressure to meet expectations. If you’re having trouble dealing with your workload, you’ll find it’s more effective to communicate that to your seniors.
An often overlooked skill in the workplace is active listening. When you hear someone talk, don’t just hear the words they’re saying, try to understand their intent, meaning and expectations. Your coworker may be telling you that something needs to be done by the end of the day. If you’re distracted or not taking them seriously, it’ll not only affect your timelines but also lead to conflicts. Listening well will save both time and effort as you’ll likely understand things the first time.
Another method to avoid miscommunication is to follow up from time to time. From the moment you receive the brief to the time to deliver the assignment, it’s important to follow up with people who are involved. This is a great project management technique to reduce the turnaround time and stay on top of things. Actively following up will help you identify any errors along the way, iron out the details and avoid miscommunication.
Being present, available and focused are keys to communicate well. Miscommunication is inevitable as is the human tendency to get distracted. But when the stakes are high, you’re required to make that extra effort to overcome communication barriers and do a good job. Improving and building your communication skills will enable you to achieve your goals on time, with limited room for error.
Good Communication Is The Key To Success
Harappa’s Speaking Effectively course will teach you how you can create compelling messages and articulate ideas. Prepare to make an impact with your words, identify your audience and make sure they’re listening. With frameworks like the Three Appeals by Aristotle (Logos or logic, Ethos or credibility and Pathos or emotion), you’ll equip yourself with the tools to communicate effectively. Whether you have to speak virtually or in person, learn key ideas like how to conduct virtual presentations to deliver amazing results. Everything from your body language to content factors into your communication. Build the awareness you need to stand out in your workplace!
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