Effects of lack of communication (plus tips to improve)

Updated 16 September 2022

Lack of communication is the act of not expressing yourself fully or omitting crucial information. It can also affect areas such as employee productivity, work relationships and mental health. Learning about the effects of lack of communication can allow you to spot the signs and allow you to communicate better. In this article, we explore the effects of lack of communication and highlight ways you can improve how you communicate.

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Effects of lack of communication

Here are some effects of a lack of communication:

Decreases work results

A lack of communication can lead to poor results, as employees don't know what tasks to perform. Without communication, you may confuse employees about their roles, which can cause one to perform someone else's job while missing theirs. Poor communication on how to perform a task can also affect the quality of work.

Causes burnout

Ineffective communication can cause workload to increase, which forces employees to spend extra time at work to avoid missing deadlines. Too much work because of poor communication can also prevent employees from taking breaks for holidays and relaxation. Eventually, this can result in burnout and extreme stress, which affect productivity. In an environment where employees can't express their opinions about issues such as how much time they require, burnout also occurs.

Discourages employees

In the absence of good communication, employees may not be able to achieve company goals. Without any positive results, employees are less likely to receive accolades, promotions and excellent reviews. Such an environment discourages employees. Discouraged employees are more likely to resign prematurely, which can affect the company's productivity.

Leads to distrust

If you're an employee leader who's poor at communicating, colleagues may be less likely to trust your leadership skills. For example, if you communicate the wrong information about how to perform a task, employees may not take your advice the next time. Poor communication can also show that you're indecisive about the company's goals and unable to prioritise tasks effectively. Not being able to communicate with employees because of distrust can also affect your performance as a leader.

Related: Leadership models: what are they and how do they differ?

Strains work relationships

Lack of communication can affect relationships and teamwork. For instance, employees may be less likely to engage in friendly conversation because of increased workload. It may also be difficult for the leadership team to connect with employees when there are constant issues because of poor communication. Employees who take more work because of poor communication may also feel they're experiencing unfair treatment. Since poor communication may involve reduced employee productivity, employees may feel that the poor communicator is affecting their career development, which can affect relationships.

Create dissatisfaction with clients

Poor communication can cause employees to miss client deadlines or produce poor-quality products that don't fit the client's preferences. Poor communication regarding payments and product deliveries can also frustrate clients. For instance, if you cannot communicate an accurate price for a product or if you conceal extra costs, customers may struggle to pay for such unexpected prices. In such instances, customers may decide to choose a different vendor which affects the company's profits.

Destabilises the work environment

Poor communication can lead to an unpredictable work environment. For instance, employees may remain stressed for long periods because they constantly expect the supervisor to find an issue with their work. In an unstable work environment, employees may also be more likely to resign on short notice. This can affect the company's growth, especially if the employee handles important projects. In an environment where there's poor communication, employees are also likely to organise work strikes.

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Tips to improve communication

Here are ways you can communicate better:

Practise effective communication

Effective communication is the act of listening when others talk and expressing yourself fully to others. Effective communication allows you to assess other people's thoughts and feelings and enables them to understand your thoughts and feelings as well. To be an effective communicator, you require skills such as empathy, listening skills and teamwork skills.

Ineffective communication can also occur when you fail to provide feedback on issues. For instance, when the team is discussing how to handle a project and a colleague may suggest a method you feel is ineffective. Keeping quiet and accepting such an approach is poor communication. Instead, you can practise how to give your opinion respectfully. If you're uncomfortable speaking in a large group, you can talk to the project supervisor privately or ask a colleague to speak on your behalf.

Read more: The importance of good communication in organisations

Set clear objectives

Creating objectives for a project or task can help employees know exactly what the company expects. Objectives can also act as performance indicators that help employees gauge their performance. For instance, if the company plans to improve customer retention by 60% in three months, employees can assess their results to determine if they can achieve the objective in time. A clear objective has SMART properties. This means that the objective is specific, measurable, achievable, relevant to the company and time-bound.

Seek other opinions

If you're part of a team, actively asking for suggestions can promote good communication. In such an instance, team members are likely to speak about things that require improvements or actions that benefit the company. To encourage opinions, you can ask open-ended questions or allow people to write suggestions anonymously. Using polls to vote can also encourage employees to provide their opinions.

Read more: Interpersonal communication: definitions and examples

Stick to one topic

When talking to employees, especially during work meetings, it can help to talk about one item at a time. This can help listeners understand your message and help you avoid confusing employees with irrelevant details. Talking about one topic at a time can also help you ensure you cover every essential item during a presentation.

Gather feedback

Gathering feedback can involve asking colleagues what they think of your communication style. You can also get feedback about a presentation to gauge whether employees fully understood your work. Getting feedback can allow you to find ways to improve your skills and enable you to perform better at work. Demonstrating a willingness to improve your communication can also promote good relationships at work.

Look for cues of nonverbal communication

Nonverbal communication may sometimes consist of gestures and facial expressions that other people show as you're speaking. In instances where people can't communicate with you, non-verbal cues can allow you to determine how they're receiving your message. For instance, if you're presenting a project to colleagues and some colleagues are nodding their heads, you can take this as a sign that they understand and agree with you. Alternatively, if some colleagues are scratching their heads and looking around the room, they may be confused. Looking for such feedback can allow you to change your presentation so that it's understandable.

Read more: 8 types of nonverbal communication at work (with examples)

Use proper communication channels

Using improper communication channels can cause employees to miss your message or view it too late. For instance, if you're handling a project that requires an urgent modification, sending a message via an informal platform may prevent other employees from viewing it early enough. Calling employees when an urgent issue arises can ensure they receive the message promptly.

Switching between different channels can also promote poor communication. For instance, if you're discussing how to perform a task via phone and then you switch to email, the other party might miss your email because they're not expecting it. In case it's necessary to switch between platforms, it's essential to communicate.

Set boundaries

Boundaries can ensure other employees know how to communicate with you, what channels to use and when to communicate. For instance, you can instruct colleagues to send work emails only during work hours. Failing to enforce such a boundary can cause other employees to send you important emails that you may miss when away from work. Setting boundaries can also motivate other employees to learn how to communicate. For instance, if you demonstrate you like active listening and excellent speaking skills, other employees may strive to have such skills when communicating with you.

Related: How To Have Difficult Conversations at Work

Accommodate other communication preferences

Different employees may prefer different methods of communication. For example, you may prefer to communicate via phone while others prefer emails. If you're communicating with someone who prefers emails, it may be inappropriate to try calling them.

Accommodating other people's preferences can allow you to maintain respectful relationships and enable you to communicate important information early. Accommodating other people's communication preferences can also involve promoting their strengths and avoiding the weak areas. For instance, if the team is presenting a project and an employee is uncomfortable with public speaking, you can ask them to create the presentation slides instead of speaking.

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