Yorkshire Times
Weekend Edition
Dr Suzie Hamlin
Organisational Development Consultant
12:28 PM 15th May 2013

Is Communication Breakdown Affecting Your Productivity?

Photo by garryknight
Photo by garryknight
Do you struggle with issues in your organisation, which result from breakdown in communications? From my experience this problem is not restricted to particular departments or grades, but one that can exist in any organisation at any level and in any area:

Marketing departments can struggle to work well with IT as the creative clashes with the technical.
Sales and product development teams can reach an impasse due to differing objectives.
Waitressing staff can struggle with their relationship with the kitchen as they are blamed for ruining the chef's creation.
Law practice managers are often abundantly aware that they are not lawyers and will never be treated with the same respect.
Damaging clashes of personalities on boards can cause a crisis regarding company direction.

Invest in internal communications

Senior managers will often say that breakdown in internal communication is a major issue for their organisation. However, although they automatically invest in marketing and communications externally, they will rarely invest in it internally. It is often seen as 'soft' and immeasurable and yet when asked what effect these breakdowns have it is almost always, a loss in productivity.

I do not think this is an Employee Communications issue or one that should, or actually can, be sorted out by Human Resources. The development of healthy Internal/Organisational Communications is an organisation-wide responsibility.
As individuals, we seem to gather opinions sometimes immediately, sometimes over time, and it helps us to order our worlds.

"That individual never listens", "that department is so out of touch with the 'real world' ", "senior managers have no idea what it is like for us", "be careful what you tell sales".

These perspectives, and the grapevine that operates around them, affect the internal dynamics of organisations. They cause, amongst others, blockages in information flow, distrust, one-upmanship and a taking of sides.

There are always multiple issues at play and multiple reasons why a department or individual behaves in a certain way:

Lack of information to enable individuals to do their job effectively
Significant changes happening around people, which they have had no involvement with and feel threatened by.
An inability to work well with certain members of their team due to clashes in personality and values.

With the investment of time, it is very useful to unpack these dynamics. It is possible to mediate between individuals, teams and departments, helping them to understand each other's perspectives, and constraints, and work together more collaboratively.

Tips for improving internal communications:

Ensure you ask those on the 'front line' about their perceptions regarding communications breakdown.
Seek to understand where and why interdepartmental conflicts arise and invest time helping teams understand this and work out a way through collaboratively.
Consider how to help your people deal with conflict well and how you can engender a culture where a challenging of the status quo is encouraged.
Do not view Internal/Organisational Communications as an HR responsibility but rather consider how the skills of assertiveness, conflict resolution, and mediation can permeate throughout.

Dr. Suzie Hamlin specializes in Change Management, Organisational Development and Communications, getting under the skin of large or small organisations, diagnosing what is going on and helping them to improve communication, collaborative working and productivity.

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