4 Ways To Combat Workplace Communication Breakdowns

Spend a day in any office, and you’ll quickly observe the multitude of different communication styles present in the workplace. Some people like to stick to facts and figures; others love to ask about your latest family vacation. Some people’s eyes glaze over if you start by diving into nitty-gritty details; others panic if you don’t start a project with a robust timeline in place.

What’s not quite so readily apparent is the impact these differences can have on the workplace.

A recent report by The Economist Intelligence Unit and Lucidchart examines different communication styles in the workplace and the effects they have on organizations. The report looks at four different communication styles, based on research from Mark Murphy:

  • Analytical: Prefer to have data and facts; use specific and precise language
  • Intuitive: Prefer to get the big picture and not get bogged down in too much detail
  • Functional: Prefer to focus on the process and think through plans step by step
  • Personal: Prefer to place emphasis on relationships and establishing personal connections to understand what others are thinking

What I found particularly interesting is that when you break down the distribution of communication styles by role, you find a fairly even spread across all job functions. (Sales is the exception, as they lean towards the “personal” communication style, but that probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise.)

What’s the takeaway? Communication styles aren’t packaged nicely by department. All types of communicators are scattered throughout your workplace.

That variety is a good thing—your team wouldn’t function very effectively without it, and it’s these differences that drive innovation. What’s problematic is that 42% of survey respondents cited different communication styles as a leading cause of miscommunication at work.

It’s not as if we only want to work with people who are just like us— 54% of respondents report enjoying communicating with people of different communication styles. The problem is that we don’t know how to do so effectively.

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