You receive an email from a colleague, asking you to do something for them. The tone is curt and abrupt.
You don’t think you’ve done anything to annoy them recently… have you?
The instructions they’ve given you are vague, and you don’t quite understand how they want you to approach the job.
It sounds pretty urgent, but they haven’t given you a deadline. You want to respond, asking for clarification, but will you risk annoying them further?
If you’ve ever found yourself in a situation like this, you’ll agree that bad written communication can take up valuable time, and headspace, in the workplace. The minutes spent trying to interpret unclear directives and in the back and forth seeking of clarification all add up, wasting precious time that could have been spent on actually getting the work done. Now a new report has laid bare the full impact of poor communication at work. The single biggest impact (43%) is lowered productivity, according to the business leaders surveyed in the 2023 State of Business Communication report by Grammarly and The Harris Poll.
Miscommunication happens at least once a day, according to 66% of business leaders, while almost half (48%) say it occurs multiple times a day.
This is a problem, because so much of our working week is spent on written communication – almost 16 hours on average (up 18% from the year before). Around three quarters (73%) of business leaders rate the quality of that communication as ‘effective’, down 12% on the previous year. The report gives an illuminating glimpse of what is causing staff problems on this front. According to employees, the main issues are:
Finding the right balance between sounding too formal and too casual (71%)
Choosing the right words to avoid offending others (71%)
Spending too much time trying to convey a message in the right way (63%)
Feeling unsure of the correct tone for communications (56%)
It’s not hard to see how this indecision and uncertainness means that quick emails that should have taken two minutes to rattle off end up taking 20. And it’s having an impact on wellbeing. Almost 70% of workers said they could recall examples of when poor communication at work had left them feeling anxious or stressed.
Meanwhile almost a third (30%) said it had lowered their confidence.
On the other hand, employees who received communication that was clear, engaging and positively framed were likely to respond faster and more agreeably to requests, deliver a higher quality of work and have improved faith in the company culture, the report found. Better communication in the workplace benefits everyone. So why aren’t businesses doing more to improve it?
Employees can’t be expected to communicate well if they’ve never been given any guidance or training.
While some might naturally be better communicators than others, how to write clearly and effectively is a skill that can be taught.
Investing in this area will help them achieve more, plus feel more confident doing it.
Whether by training your staff or helping you devise strategies and style guides, we can help you improve written communication in your workplace. Interested? Get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org