Performance Communication , Workplace Communication

Why a Crisis is the Best Test of Your Communication and the Worst Time to Find Out It’s Not Working

Why a Crisis is the Best Test of Your Communication and the Worst Time to Find Out It’s Not Working

While the entire Texas coast is still trying to recover from Hurricane Harvey, many of my clients who were affected by the storm are calling to say they need help in the area of communication. Even though budgets are tight and many have been hit by expenses that couldn’t have been foreseen when budgets were set, many have discovered that communication was the cause of many of their problems during and after the storm.

A crisis is probably the worst time to find out your personal communication skills are lacking and that your organizational communication structures and processes are inefficient and ineffective. Unfortunately, it takes a crisis for many organizations to truly see and care about the impact of poor communication. Too many times, an instance of poor communication is written off as one person’s or one department’s shortcomings. However, it’s during a crisis, when it’s critical that everyone communicates efficiently and effectively, that we see the impact of so many factors that cause communication to fail, such as:

  • Lack of trust between the organization and employees
  • Lack of trust between departments
  • The existence of an “us” and “them” mentality between departments or between the organization and its customers
  • Unclear messages that get more unclear as they make their way down the organizational chart
  • The impact of technology and our ability to instantaneously communicate, which often happens before information is properly vetted
  • The rush to communicate taking precedent over the importance of thinking of how to best communicate the message AND considering the impact of the message on the receivers
  • And on and on

Luckily, some organizations have realized there’s an issue and have been proactive in addressing it. Unfortunately, others are still scratching their heads trying to figure out what went wrong, while their customers become frustrated and disillusioned, and their employee morale plummets.

In addition to the signs above, other signs that your organizational communication is in trouble include:

  • Employees not being kept in the loop – they learn more about what’s going on in the organization through the grapevine (or from friends, relatives, or social media) than through official channels
  • Employees complaining they’re not being kept in the loop
  • Employees can’t accurately share what the organization’s mission or purpose is – or their own
  • Vague or unclear instructions from leaders and supervisors
  • Employees who are afraid to ask questions
  • Employees who are afraid to tell management “the truth”
  • Complaints from customers
  • Employees who are afraid to be proactive, fearing reprisal from supervisors
  • Employees who lack the “big picture”
  • Employees who won’t help others because something isn’t in their job description
  • Low morale and lack of enthusiasm on the part of employees and leaders alike
  • Negative attitudes
  • Overall lack of teamwork
  • High turnover
  • Poor time management
  • Inability to prioritize
  • And more

Sadly, these are just SOME of the signs and symptoms of communication problems in an organization. Whether you are post-crisis, or lucky enough to have not faced a catastrophic event in your organization, now is the time to look at how effective communication is in your organization and to take action to improve it so your people and processes are ready should a crisis or emergency arise.

Amy Castro, MA, CSP is a Performance Communication expert, speaker, trainer, and author with more than 20 years experience working with organizations and individuals who want to increase productivity, decrease conflict, and improve service through excellent communication. Click here to contact her.

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