Every workplace is a unique space filled with various personalities. While this diversity can spur innovation if leveraged well, the differing work and communication styles it produces can also bring its fair share of challenges.
One common roadblock is encountering someone who is still developing their communication skills or avoids communicating altogether. Team members recognize poor communication in the workplace, and they are also conscious of how this impacts productivity:
- Only 7% of workforce members feel communication is accurate, open, and timely.
- 86% of workforce members cite poor communication as the main reason for company failures.
To combat these issues and create a successful team, here is your guide on how to deal with an employee who doesn’t communicate well with others. This resource comes with an actionable template to help tackle your roadblocks straight away.
How to Recognize a Poor Communicator
There are three common signs of a poor communicator. Looking for and mitigating these behaviors will help you proactively identify and drive better communication practices on your team.
Rather than sharing their thoughts or insights, poor communicators may leave you guessing how they think or feel. This can manifest in a variety of ways:
- Not participating in team meetings
- Failing to answer emails or Slack messages
- Dodging opportunities for face-to-face interactions
2. Poor Listening Skills
Poor listening skills often result in a lack of understanding or feelings of frustration on both sides.
For example, a poor communicator on the team might lose interest during meetings and fail to
- Make eye contact.
- Ask follow-up questions.
- Take notes.
A lack of communication skills can sometimes manifest as interruptions. A poor communicator may interrupt a conversation or cut the other person off. Interrupting is not only disrespectful, it also diminishes the voices of others.
How to Engage with a Team Member Who Avoids Communication
There are four core strategies to pursue when engaging a team member who avoids communication:
1. Seek to Understand the Reasons
There is always an underlying reason for an avoidance of communication. It’s important to identify why it is happening so you can take the right action. In addition, exploring the cause enables you to approach the situation with empathy and the right perspective.
Some reasons why people avoid communicating may include the following:
- Fear of failure or conflict: A team member who is afraid of making errors and the potential consequences of those mistakes may opt to stay silent.
- Skills or knowledge gap: Some team members may feel overwhelmed or self-conscious if they believe they are behind. This can especially be the case among newer workforce members.
- Lack of psychological safety: Feeling uncomfortable expressing thoughts and feelings can deter someone from voicing their ideas to the best of their abilities.
- Disengagement: Disengaged employees are mentally checked out and do the bare minimum to get by. As a result, they may not communicate as often or as well as they could.
- Anxiety: Some habits may be attributed to anxiety, whether it’s speaking too quickly or interrupting to “sound smart.” Anxiety tends to manifest in various ways (one of them being speech patterns), so keep this in mind when addressing poor communication on your team.
Identify the cause by initiating a 1:1 conversation. Leave the conversation open-ended rather than making assumptions about why you think the individual is having difficulties communicating.
Facilitating challenging discussions is hard (and can even be scary), but with the right courageous conversation tips in mind, driving a productive and empathetic interaction is possible.
Start with these:
- Maintain composure. Be relaxed in voice, tone, and body language.
- Don’t minimize the issue. Be confident and assertive about what you have to say.
- Show interest and care. You are there to help them. When they share information, show them you care.
2. Clarify on Your End
Helping your team member grow into a better communicator requires exemplifying good communication practices.
When the team member is communicating with you, check for understanding on your end. Ask follow-up questions to clarify the other person’s meaning and ensure you are understanding them correctly. This places you both on the same page, building mutual trust and respect.
3. Check for Understanding
Alternatively, when you are communicating with your team member, make sure they understand you.
Check that your team member received your message clearly. Invite them to ask questions. Encourage them to take time to reflect on what was discussed, and follow up with any concerns and input on their perspective.
4. Centralize Information
While it’s essential to communicate information to someone, it’s equally important to store those details in a central location. This is a place where both you and your team members can access the information, and more importantly, widen a two-way communication channel.
Let’s say there is a team member who has not been communicating their project milestones due to a skills gap and disengagement. You may consider pairing them with a mentor (someone who has a track record of hitting quarterly goals) who can support and guide them.
Their progression toward the goal is tracked on a performance-management platform. The platform also keeps track of all relevant documents and discussion points so the team member has helpful resources to reference on an ongoing basis.
Things to Avoid When Working with a Poor Communicator
Keep these three pitfalls in mind as you work with your team members:
1. Getting Impatient and Frustrated
Avoid getting emotional during discussions. This can unnecessarily escalate the issue. Instead, take the time to walk through your talking points. Keep everything objective.
For example, instead of saying, “I wish you would stop interrupting the conversation” you can say, “I noticed you were speaking over other people in the group.”
Micromanaging not only harbors anxiety, it also illustrates a lack of trust. It is common to feel like you need to hover over a poor communicator’s shoulder, but it’s important to give them time and space to establish new habits.
Keep an open-door policy. Let your team members know they are encouraged to approach you with any questions they have. Working with a poor communicator can be frustrating, but it can also be an opportunity to foster the development of a better relationship with your team members.
3. Assuming You Have All the Facts and Information
While it is easy to make assumptions based on preconceived notions, you won’t have all the facts until you actually have the conversation.
Opening up a discussion alleviates thoughts that may cause frustration or anxiety. Thus, go in with good intentions and care. Focus on learning about the other person’s perspective and how you can support them.
Overcome Communication Barriers with CMOE
While communication might be an obvious skill to have in the workplace, building competence is easier said than done.
Lean on CMOE’s coaching services to identify additional ways to engage in dialogue with your team. Focused on constructive coaching and team-member commitment, our resources are intended to help you eliminate barriers and enhance relationships.
Contact us for more information.