100+ Examples of Miscommunication in the Workplace

communication experts featuring catherine mattiske · 50 min read
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One of the most common types of miscommunication comes from using messages and email when a real-time conversation is needed.
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Miscommunication is a relatively common issue in the workplace. It may develop as a result of ineffective communication, which results in misconceptions and animosity on both sides of an issue or topic. It has the potential to be damaging to both workers and businesses. According to business professionals, the following are examples of workplace miscommunications and how to resolve them.
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Jennifer Edwards and Katie McCleary, leadership coaches I authors

Social disconnection, political polarization, and general malaise

Communication is a messy business. Words can create clarity and disaster—from healing wounds and clearing up misunderstandings to blasting zingers and poking bears. Nobody truly knows how words will land.

As many of us return to the office or in hybrid work environments, our communication may become clunky. In these last two years, everyone has changed due to different experiences, including social disconnection, political polarization, and general malaise. Miscommunication is bound to happen – because we are all human. The “human suit” that we all wear tends to be highly reactive: it easily takes things personally and makes up stories, especially when we feel awkward, negative, and/or defensive about our opinions.

You may get your feelings hurt, become confused by someone’s behavior or attitude, and find yourself in a breakdown. Your human suit needs attention to prime itself to show up optimally. How can you manage yourself and your conversations to best communicate and connect with people in the workplace?

Be sure you are personally as healthy and aware as you can be

It all starts with you. As a contributor to the relationship, you have a choice about how you show up. Focus on being optimal with your mental, physical, and spiritual health—it goes a long way in being connective. Optimizing your brain and mind’s ability to perform exceptionally when under this stress is crucial.

Focus on:
  • eating well
  • getting sleep
  • drinking water
  • taking breaks for lots of fresh air and exercise
  • and commit to practicing gratitude

Be sure to have a support system outside your office, where you can process your worry or concern without censorship. Your health is a determinant of how well you can manage and communicate well through this return-to-work season.

Acknowledge that our brains and ears are meaning-making machines

We all wear a pair of headphones that “interpret” information and judge it to understand how it impacts you and others. To avoid breakdowns, zero in on the quality of your listening. Be aware of your biases, agendas, perspectives, and judgments and choose to suspend them in service of the relationship. Place aside external and internal distractions, such as smartphones and watches, and your mind’s chatter and desire to interrupt. Remember, listen and silent have the same letters — close your mouth and open your ears.

Ask simple open-ended questions as opposed to agenda-driven questions

Start sentences with “tell me about” to open the other and speak about what’s top of mind for them. They often will share details that are meaningful to them, and that’s where you can better understand what’s important in their perspective. Minimize the pressure of asking too complicated questions. Often too much emphasis is placed on language to do the hard work. Quality communication and collaboration begins before you speak. Show up with a clear and self-imposed mandate to be present, and listen and speak with others using curiosity and care. Phrases like “tell me about” and “share with me tend” to yield great interactions.

Show compassion when communication goes sideways

Our human suit is a complicated piece of machinery and can be quick to judge. Why? When communication is unclear, our bodies become uncomfortable and signals to our brain that “trouble” is brewing. This “worry” hits your prefrontal cortex, and then hijacking hormones attack your brain’s ability to:
  • process creatively,
  • collaborate effectively,
  • and communicate openly.

The uncertainty of what is happening is fueled by a biological chemical cocktail that often sends the brain to fight, flight, or freeze mode, impeding your ability to be present, to listen, and be curious. To communicate best, interrupt your judgment by becoming radically curious and taking a deep breath. Ask: “What do I need to know or explore here, to better understand what is actually happening and how I might use my evolved thinking as opposed to defensive thinking?” With self-awareness, you can gain control of your cognitive thinking by breathing in through your nose for five seconds and exhaling out your mouth for five seconds. Repeat several times. By doing this, you are optimizing your executive function, allowing your brain and tongue to gain control over potential breakdowns.

Miscommunication will happen at work, especially with people who are different from you. You can choose to access these tools to change the energy and outcome of the conversation. Most of the time, it takes just one willing person to bridge the gap between breakdown to breakthrough. Your professional relationships are worth learning these intentional skills. It takes a special kind of fortitude to look in the mirror and assess how you are engaging with people in these times.
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catherine mattiske, CEO and founder, id9 intelligent design I author, "unlock inner genius"

Not tailoring your communication to your audience

You’re giving a presentation at work, and one minute into it, you look up and see half your audience checking Instagram. This is workplace miscommunication at its worst because not only are you not communicating effectively, and you’re not even connecting. The solution? Tailor your communication to your audience.

Everyone fits into one of twelve learning and communication profiles (aka Inner Genius Archetypes), and they’re easy enough to tap into and energize others with, whether it’s piquing interest by hitting someone with the facts right up front or inspiring another when you tell them a story to communicate the big picture. Most people blindly communicate in the way they want to be communicated to— that’s the mistake. Leaders tailor their communication to other people’s learning and communication preferences and get the desired results each and every time.

Talking about yourself incessantly

Remember the presentation where the leader began by talking about herself, the activities she did that morning, and the great restaurant she was at the night before, never previewing the benefits and advantages of what she would be presenting, and everyone was in rapt attention? No, we don’t either. One of the most annoying examples of workplace miscommunication is assuming your co-workers want to hear about every detail about your life. Talking about yourself drains energy, wastes time, and inspires no one (not even your cat you keep talking about). So knock it off, command the room, capture attention right up front, and lay out your plan innovatively and powerfully.

original article published on Up Journey

 07 APR 2022

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