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The State of Miscommunication: New Survey Finds Communication Gaps Across Organizations

Fierce Conversations and Quantum Workplace partnered to develop a survey that takes a deep dive into miscommunication in the workplace

Fierce Conversations and Quantum Workplace today released new research that reveals trends around miscommunication in the workplace, from employees feeling comfortable speaking their minds to who is to blame for communication issues that do arise. The survey captures perceptions on workplace conversations, miscommunication, and employee engagement from over 1,300 employees.

“Communication, boiled down to simple conversations, are at the heart of every relationship, including those with your co-workers and your manager,” said Stacey Engle, executive vice president at Fierce Conversations. “This survey dives into some of the most pressing issues organizations face today when it comes to miscommunications across all levels, and highlights the importance of conversation skills when it comes to the health of an organization.”

Some of the key findings include:

  • Only half of work-related conversations are high quality: Half of employees rated work-related conversations with their co-workers as either great or excellent, and a similar percentage was found for perceived conversation quality with immediate managers. Most of the individuals who rated conversations as high quality did so for both their co-workers and with their immediate managers, suggesting that they have the skill set to ensure they have high quality conversations no matter who the audience.
  • Roughly half of employees aren’t regularly speaking their minds: Less than half (47.5%) of those surveyed said they always or almost always speak their minds at work, with 52 percent noting the same about conversations with their immediate manager. When an employee doesn’t feel comfortable bringing up issues, it could not only impact their job satisfaction, but also leave new ideas on the table, or let bad ideas move farther along than they ever should.
  • Employees agree miscommunication happens across their workplace, but they aren’t part of the problem. More than 80 percent of employees indicated miscommunication occurred in their organization very frequently, frequently, or occasionally, yet only half admitted that they were directly involved in miscommunication as often. These results reveal that accountability is critical and often overlooked in an organization.
  • Everyone is responsible for miscommunication. Survey respondents were asked which group of employees they thought were most responsible for reducing miscommunication in an organization. More than half (52.7%) thought all employee groups were responsible, followed by supervisors and managers, who 32.5 percent of respondents thought were most responsible. Understanding the cause of miscommunication, including the responsibility to clarify issues, is a trait every employee should have.
  • Technology can lead to greater miscommunication. Survey respondents (46%) thought technology-assisted communication (email, texting, phone, etc.) was more susceptible to miscommunication than in-person communication. However, almost as many respondents (43.3%) believed both were equally susceptible. How technology is used, and when it is warranted, is a key skill employees should understand to limit the level of miscommunication caused.
  • Group conversations and meetings are more likely to result in miscommunication.  55.7 percent said miscommunication is more likely to occur in group conversations than in one-to-one conversations. The study concluded the number one source of miscommunication during team meetings is individuals interpreting messages and goals differently. This was the top reason by a wide margin with almost one-third of survey respondents in agreement.

"Engaged cultures are those that foster trusting relationships," said Greg Harris, President and CEO at Quantum Workplace. “And trust is the outcome of what we say and how we say it. This study highlights where organizations need to strengthen their muscles around conversations and communication.”

The full survey report on effective communication in the workplace provides additional insight into what these findings mean for organizations and tips for creating greater clarity in communication amongst employees.