The price of a poor communication culture

The price of a poor communication culture

Human Resources

Editor’s note: HRTorQue works with a UK company to improve communication flows in the workplace. If you would like more information then please feel free to contact us.

Recently we have found that many disciplinary enquiries are related to employees who disrespect senior management and their employers.

To try and understand why this is happening we use the “5-Why Model”:

  • When listening to an employee who has acted badly, we often find extenuating circumstances. These do not exonerate the employee, but do highlight flaws in the way the business operates and manages their relationships in the workplace. It points to issues in communication structures and poorly defined organisational culture in the “way we do things”;
  • The employee is often very frustrated in the workplace and unable to express these frustrations or feels unable to do so without fear of victimisation. This frustration is often built up over a long period and results in an explosion which then causes the inappropriate behaviour;
  • Other issues that emerge are that employers do not regularly meet with employees to discuss the business strategy, new work procedures, or changes in the employee’s world of work which may affect them and their families. This all leads to frustration and employees then act out of frustration, because they feel they have no other way to resolve the matter.

Our advice is to try to create an enabling work environment, with well-established communication channels and regular conversations about issues that have an impact in the workplace.

We advocate that the workplace culture should be conducive to two-way communication – not just the top-down, but also bottom-up. Simple structures can assist:

  • Monthly team meetings with all staff to brief them about business performance, new developments and to understand concerns from employees. These need to be formally documented and timeous feedback provided on items raised by employees. The feedback loop is important.
  • Monthly manager/employee 1-on-1’s. This assists in helping employees achieve their individual goals and foster closer relationships between managers and subordinates.
  • Quarterly or Bi-annual business reviews. Brief staff how the business is performing, areas of concern and the step changes required to improve.
  • Union / management meetings. Critical if your workplace is unionised – a lot of union officials are great at resolving workplace conflict and it can be a huge asset to have a good working relationship with the objective being to make the workplace conflict-free. It does not mean rolling over on every issue, but it means constructive dialogue to arrive at win-win solutions.

Ultimately when communication fails and disciplinary process lead to the dismissal of employees, there is a cost. These costs can include CCMA, recruitment, disruption in the rhythm of the business and institutional memory loss of processes.

The current reality is that many good employees are lost purely because of poor communication and this could be avoided by simply talking to each other.