“Tell me everything.” “Filter the news.”
“What’s on your mind?” “I don’t need to know what you’re thinking.”
“What happened during your day?” “I don’t have the time to listen to this now.”

Sounds like a couple arguing? It could actually be snatched from a typical conversation between a manager and an employee.

A 2010 study by Think Feel Know Coaching suggested that communication divides between managers and workers could lead to low staff morale, confusion for the company’s clients or customers, and loss of business. The problem can affect people across roles, functions, and industries.

We look at three major reasons why managers and their direct reports could get the wrong end of the communication thread and how to fix it.

Reason 1: A report offers vague or limited information

Managers are expected to keep their teams running smoothly, think strategically, and act as a conduit between their team and upper management. All of this depends on one single thing – information. Unfortunately, team leads often end up getting too little information or very few details. To counter this, David Hassel, founder of employee engagement and performance software 15Five, suggests continuously asking team members questions to improve visibility and show that they need not be afraid of judgment.

Reason 2: A manager does not explain the context

When children and parents argue, the typical parental response to the child’s ‘why?’ is because ‘I said so!’ But that’s not helpful in a work situation. When managers make a request or a decision without explaining the thought process behind it, employees are unsure of how to deliver on their tasks. This leads to a loss of 40 minutes every day due to uncertainty. As a manager, you can brief your team clearly every time you request them to undertake a task or implement a decision you’ve made.

Reason 3: Managers and reports don’t invest time to understand each other’s tasks

Managers and reports often have very different tasks to complete during the workday. Without understanding how their jobs affect each other, it can be difficult to empathize with the other person or cooperate on the big picture. However, the lack of time and differing priorities make it unusual for managers and their teams to share their work challenges. Weekly catch-ups to discuss problems and concerns or highlight wins and new ideas will help everyone deep dive into each other’s work, even if only for an hour.

Communication disconnects often stand in the way of a team’s outstanding performance. By understanding why they happen, teams can resolve issues and keep conversations clear and effective.

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