Why Communication With Your Boss Sucks
One of the great things about my job as a speaker and trainer is I'm always looking for some new information, statistics, images, or videos to make my presentations better. Not only does it help with what I deliver to my audiences, but it also helps me learn on a continual basis.
I'm launching a new workshop aimed at improving communication for business leaders and came across two employee surveys that clearly demonstrate why communication in the workplace is such as problem.
The bottom line is, the majority of employees say the worst thing about their job is communication and most managers say communicating with their employees makes them uncomfortable. What a combination!
The Survey Sadly Says
In addition to the work I continue to do as a media trainer, I also do a workshop on communications. It’s called Can We Talk?
I’m fascinated by the results of two surveys, when combined, clearly show why communication is such a problem in the workplace today.
The first was done in 2014 by the former website About.com (now rebranded as dotdash). It asked people why they don’t like their job and the top three answers all related to communication. Those three responses added up to 62% of all responses. In other words, problems with communication were the main reasons two out of every three people don’t like their jobs.
The biggest issue cited was a lack of direction from management, basically a disconnect between employees and their bosses. Number two was overall poor communication, followed by constant change that wasn’t being communicated properly.
Perhaps this is as good of a time as any to mention that people leave bosses, not companies.
Why Your Boss is Uncomfortable
Speaking of bosses, in 2015 an American company called Interact surveyed hundreds of managers and learned that almost 70% were uncomfortable communicating with their employees. 70%!
Over a third of them, or 37%, said they’re uncomfortable giving employees direct feedback or criticism. Perhaps that’s not surprising because as a former manager I didn’t find doing performance reviews something I exactly looked forward to, but here’s a stat that did surprise me – 20% of managers said even giving an employee praise, or recognizing achievements for a job well done made them uncomfortable.
I can understand why it’s difficult to do a performance review because there’s normally something unpleasant you need to bring up, but I find it really surprising that even giving praise is difficult for one in every five managers.
Sweeping the Medals
So basically what we have here is employees saying the worst part of their job is communication, especially with their boss and bosses saying it’s uncomfortable for them to communicate with employees.
Great. At least we have clarity though.
I didn’t really find the About.com survey surprising because we’re heard many times in the past that poor communication is a major issue in the workplace, especially between bosses and their employees. I was however surprised that the top three reasons people don’t like their jobs all relate to communication. I would have thought pay could have made it into the top three, or a lack of advancement or challenge, but didn’t expect communication would take the gold, silver and bronze.
How Do We Fix the Problem?
The problem is very clear, but how do we fix it? How do we get real communication started between managers and their employees?
The first stumbling block is clearly a lack of knowledge that the problem exists. Too few bosses seem to understand what a problem this is, and too few employees are brave enough to tell their bosses what they’re thinking. As a result, the vicious circle continues.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
Once organizations recognize the problem, it’s up to them to do something about it. This doesn’t mean employees get off the hook because they have an important role to play too, but I believe the companies they work for need to see the problem and take steps to address it.
There’s no one size fits all solution to improve communication because organizations vary in size, structure and culture. However, if there’s one thing management universally can do better is recognize communication is a problem and take steps to address it. Rather than focusing so much on implementing changes in an organization, leaders need to stop and think how they’re going to communicate those changes and maybe even seek input along the way.
There’s obviously a need for more one-on-one meetings, more group meetings, or variations that bring people together to talk without making them feel like they’re meeting. Whatever fits with a company’s culture should be tried. If it doesn’t work, try something else, because what many companies are doing now (or not doing) obviously isn’t helping according to the surveys.
Being direct and clear should be fundamental. How’s it possible to make improvements if bosses and the people who report to them beat around the bush about what’s bothering them?
It’s not easy and at times it’ll be painful, but it’s better than the status quo isn’t it?