Communication fiascos

Some of the direct consequences of poor communication can lead to strained employee relationships, poor employee morale, wastage of time and resources.

For quite some time I have been observing issues cropping up due to the ambiguity in communication within the government departments. A case in point is the recent episode of the school education department where a notification issued by the authorities became a subject of debate within the department.

The teachers were caught in a whirlpool of misunderstanding, whether to attend the schools physically or continue the online classes from home. The confusion compounded when Independence Day celebrations ended. The teachers were in a fix as multiple notifications poured from different corners within the department about the opening of the government schools.

Actually the confusion has its origin to the main notifications when teachers were asked to physically attend the school to make necessary arrangements for celebrating Independence Day.

Majority of the teachers mistook the notification effective for a particular period ending August 15 and deemed closure of schools afterwards. However this was not the case and the confusion among the teaching community forced the top authorities to revisit their earlier notifications and made it clear to them to attend their schools physically.

Precisely, there was a lack of clarity in the official communication. Even the media reported that the order asking the vaccinated teaching staff to attend their respective schools left the teachers in a dilemma as it was not clear whether the teachers had to continue holding online and community classes or to attend their respective schools.

It’s worth mentioning that Greater Kashmir received scores of calls from teachers, zonal offices and other employees of the School Education Department who sought clarity over the physical attendance of the teaching staff in schools. And the statement of the Director School Education that “those who can’t understand Government order should resign’, looked bizarre.

Actually, lack of clarity in communication with departments is not a new fiasco. Generally speaking, there are innumerable instances which reveal that the internal communication matters within a department or among the departments are not given serious thought, which ultimately culminates into an impediment for smooth governance - be it corporate, political or economic governance. In the age of technology which has revolutionized the process of communication and triggering the flow of information at lightning speed, a lack of clarity in communication can do a great deal of damage.

It would not be out of place to mention that a communication which is ambiguous in nature simply causes a crisis within an organization. In other words, it’s the clarity in communication which forms the major principle to avoid any crisis within the system and even manage the existing crisis.

Necessity of clarity in communication cannot be overlooked and during the course of sharing information, both the sender and the receiver have a responsibility not to leave any scope for misunderstanding. The person delivering the message has a major responsibility to observe as much as possible what they are saying. At the same time, the person receiving the message too has a responsibility to ask questions on any points that are confusing the communiqué.

Precisely, we can sum up all this as a communication breakdown where someone said something along the way that was misinterpreted by someone else. Too many assumptions were made, and not enough questions were asked.

Now the main issue is how to tackle this breakdown in communication, precisely internal communication. The answer lies in, first, understanding the importance of strong communication and then developing an internal communication policy to bring promptness and clarity in messages from the authorities of the departments.

Strong communication is essential for healthy relationships, whether between a customer and an employee, a top officer in a department and its employees or between co-workers. When there is lack of clarity in communication, the sender misses the basic important thing to send across and ultimately leads to confusion among the targeted receivers of the message. It simply leads to breakdown in communication and can have serious consequences on the overall functioning of the department.

In simpler terms, a lack of communication communicates unclearly or ineffectively. Some of the direct consequences of poor communication can lead to strained employee relationships, poor employee morale, wastage of time and resources. Notably, an organization, Society for Human Resource Management, in its survey report titled “The Cost of Poor Communications,” cited an average loss per company of $62.4 million per year because of inadequate communication to and between employees. That number is per company!

So all this makes sense to foster internal communication on professional lines. The purpose of internal communications is to support the work of all employees by informing them about matters concerning the organization promptly, transparently and actively. The aim is to use internal communications as a means of ensuring an open and direct flow of information between the top officials of the department and the employees. It’s through this internal communication that can lead to more productivity, that too in an organized way, to achieve objectives. An internal communication platform will make the employees in the department/ organization communicate more actively, share ideas and solve problems together.

As put by communication experts, “internal communication is easy, if you get one thing right - the way you produce and share knowledge. Knowledge has the potential to stimulate powerful discussions that engage people. Focus on creating an ecosystem for producing and sharing knowledge - and your internal communication metrics will soar!”

Such a communication platform can encourage employees to come out with their own ideas for the better functioning of the department and its governing system. One of the most benefits of internal communication is in facilitating employee training.

Every single day, employees have experiences that they learn from, but they end up sharing only a tiny percentage of these experiences with others. If a support team member learns something from an interaction, that bit of knowledge can help other support associates assist others in the department and will ultimately enhance the performance of the department/organization to achieve the objective. Remarkably, knowledge sharing discussions can be especially helpful in quickly training employees because they will have a practical resource to learn from.

Precisely, a strong and well focused internal communication platform in a department like education department will thrive in a mutually dependent cycle as it will make it easier to share knowledge only to improve the internal communication. This will engage employees in productive discussions and work towards making things better in the department.

Fortunately, modern technology gives a multitude of ways to communicate. Print, television, radio, online media, social media, text, and e-alerts are all communication channels which departments like the education department can use to achieve its objectives in a more focused and organized way.

In moving forward, it will help the staff and officials to pursue the basics of good communication and get messages in a clear and effective way across the department.

Meanwhile, a research outlines three ways the government can improve on its communication: integrating communication work closely with policy teams at the outset; benchmarking communication strategies against impact, influence and effect; and hiring research and data specialists to make use of all relevant data.

Last, but not the least. Communication overload is to be avoided.

In this age of the internet, we have access to more information and instant correspondence than ever before. It’s both a blessing and a curse. With internal communications, think less is more. Experts suggest keeping things simple, brief and to the point. Focus on sending the right information to the right people at the right time. Your team will thank you.

In the words of MarijnDeurloo “Effective internal communication not only connects people with one another, but also with the right information at the right time.”

(The views are of the author & not the institution he works for)

Greater Kashmir