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3 Team Communication Errors to Avoid at All Costs

Nikola Baldikov
Nikola Baldikov  |  August 26, 2019

Often in our work lives, learning what not to do is as important as learning the correct way to do things.

This is definitely the case when it comes to communication. While it’s vital to learn proven best practices for effective communication, it’s also important to avoid the mistakes that have been shown to reduce effectiveness. 

After all, the consequences of miscommunication can be severe. Communicating badly can lead to a wide range of resources being wasted, including time and money. Team members can become unclear on what’s expected of them, and efficiency and productivity suffer as a result.

3 team communication errors to avoid at all costs

Today, we’re going to explore three key communication errors that should be avoided at all costs. Stay clear of these three mistakes, and the communication effectiveness of yourself and your team will be greatly enhanced.

1. Using language that isn’t understood by everyone

In recent years, there has been a growth in remote and flexible working. For many teams, it’s common to have members across the globe, living and working in different time zones.

On the one hand, this growth in global teams has led to many advantages. Skills and experience from around the world can be unlocked and put toward the benefit of a project.

On the other hand, global teams have led to new communication challenges.

In the past when teams tended to be based in the same area, language could be used safe in the assumption that everyone would understand it in the same way. That’s no longer the case.

To avoid the mistakes that can arise from team members being based in different geographical locations, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Jargon: Often, jargon is industry specific, but it can also be localized. To avoid misunderstanding, or the inefficiency of having to explain something a second time, try and avoid highly technical language where possible. Keep the terms used understandable by all.
  • Idioms: Idioms are one of the most confusing things for speakers of another language. Avoid them to sidestep the problem of idioms being misinterpreted, leading to errors in work.
  • Time: When people are operating in different time zones, it’s important to have a clear approach to time language. After all, the end of the day for one person might be the start for another. One solution is to establish a single time zone that all time language is assumed to refer to. Another is to spell out the specific time zone you’re referring to each and every instance that time language is used.

It’s essential to avoid undermining the many benefits that come with teams spread across the globe. A careful choice of language, in order to avoid anything that might be confusing for people in other regions, is a superb starting point. 

2. Failing to set communication guidelines

 A common mistake when establishing team communication is to focus on the latest trends and technologies, rather than laying the ground rules for how people should communicate. While it’s important to choose the right tools and apps, it’s equally, if not more, important to establish guidelines as to how and when people should communicate.

What might seem like the right amount of communication to one person may be far too much or too little to another. This difficulty is compounded by cultural differences in communication norms when a team is spread out across the world.

Failing to establish clear and unambiguous guidelines for communication is a recipe for failure.

Some of the things to establish clearly and firmly from the start include:

  • Reply time: How often is it acceptable to wait before replying to a communication from a team member? This will vary from team to team, but it’s important to establish a guideline. Otherwise, people might feel too much pressure to respond straight away, causing stress and distracting from the quality of their work. At the other end of the scale, too slow responses can hinder progress and hurt a team’s effectiveness. Establish a middle ground that everyone on the team is willing to stick to.
  • Working hours: When people use specialist team communication apps, it can be hard to switch off from work. The temptation is to always check the app and respond. This can lead to people burning out and feeling that they are never away from work. Establish which days and times people are expected to respond during, and be clear that there is no pressure to respond outside of those. This is essential for team member wellbeing.
  • Channels: Not every team member will need to respond to every message. Equally, there are some messages that would benefit being seen by more people than a direct recipient. It’s important to establish when messages should be sent via a public channel and when they should be sent privately between team members.

Never make the mistake of thinking everyone will be automatically on the same page when it comes to communication or that the apps and tools will handle things for you. It’s vital to establish guidelines and procedures to prevent stress, confusion, and burnout due to communication errors. 

3. Communicating across a wide range of platforms

It seems like the list of ways to communicate with our colleagues is never-ending. 

Hardly a day passes without a new app being released, promising better and more effective team communication.

However, too many apps lead to confusion and chaos. To communicate effectively as a team, it’s crucial to choose exactly which communication platforms will be used, when they will be used, and the purpose they will be used for.

Some guidelines to avoid problems stemming from too many platforms include:

  • Same page: Get everyone on the same page from the start. If everyone agrees to use the same communication tools for the same purposes, a lot of confusion and wasted energy are avoided. If you let team members communicate as they wish, you run the risk of some team members communicating on one platform, and some on another. 
  • Best fit: It’s important that the communication tools you use represent a good fit for their purpose. For example, day-to-day internal talk is probably not best suited for email. A specialist instant messaging for business app might be a better fit. Ensure that the tools you choose are suitable for their intended purpose.
  • Too many tools: One quick way to frustrate your team is to present an endless range of apps and tools. Try and narrow it down to a few. For example, you might want one app for instant messaging and one app for project management. This keeps things manageable, reduces training time, and stops people becoming overwhelmed by the technology that is intended to make work easier. 

When carefully chosen, specialist communication apps can greatly enhance the ease and effectiveness with which your team operates. Choosing too many can have the opposite effect.

Even when everyone is on the same page with platforms, productivity can still struggle. Check out our Slack tips to help stay focused while also being a reliable communicator. 

Conclusion

Ultimately, effective team communication comes down to everyone understanding what is expected of them, using language understandable by all, and avoiding any confusion resulting from geographic location.

Let’s be thankful that the days of sending faxes and relying on international phone line conference calls are over.

The new era of fast and secure team communication promises to unlock potential like never before. Avoiding these few key mistakes will help to ensure that the experience is a productive and positive one for each and every member of your team. 

If you're ready to make communication a breeze within your team, check out the best internal communications software solutions to find the right one for your organization today. 

See the Highest-Rated Internal Communications Software →

Nikola Baldikov
Author

Nikola Baldikov

Nikola Baldikov is a digital marketing and tech enthusiast, specializing in helping companies' success in these areas. Besides his passion for digital marketing, he is an avid fan of football and dance.