Communication From Small Business Leaders Continues to Limit Employee Productivity

Been doing a lot of research online lately with regard to workplace communication.

It’s sad to say the results continue to be less than positive.

Most recently was a poll conducted on behalf of workplace and leadership communications firm Interact by the Harris polling company, which found that…

“91% of employees say communication issues can drag executives down.”

The survey showed business leaders still struggling with micromanaging, bullying, narcissism, indecisiveness, and more. Below is the list of the top eight issues employees struggle with in the workplace from their bosses:

  • They don’t recognize employee achievements (63%)
  • Not giving clear directions (57%)
  • Not having time to meet with employees (52%)
  • Refusing to have conversations with subordinates (51%)*
  • Taking credit for others’ ideas (47%)*
  • Not offering constructive criticism (39%)*
  • Not knowing employees’ names (36%)*
  • Refusing to talk to people on the phone/in person, emailing only (34%)*

There was no detail as to where the 1000 employees in this survey came from, whether in small or micro sized businesses or from large companies.

I’ve put * at the end of five of the above issues because I don’t think these are an issue in small businesses of under 50 employees, the primary size of the companies I work with. At least not in the context of a larger company (more on some of the contexts as to how these are issues in small business, in future posts).

I have no doubt, though, the top 3 are and will continue to be issues from small business owners and managers.

What do you think?

What is your experience with these Top 8?

Please leave a comment below to continue the conversation.

’til next time, Communicate With Power!

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11 thoughts on “Communication From Small Business Leaders Continues to Limit Employee Productivity

  1. Sally Fox says:

    Very timely, Skip, and so true. A few of us have been asked to comment on our new(ish) director’s performance (by his superior) and the response has been remarkably in sync with our experience.

  2. CJ Rice says:

    I find it not unusual for key stakeholders to be overuse email today. I’d have to asterisk your asterisks! Small companies also exist in decentralized organizational structures. Email becomes the predominant means of communication. This emailitis is a growing phenomena and one that increases the threat of significant communication/relational failures. I did not experience this problem 15 years ago as today.

  3. Ed Donald says:

    Interesting survey as all surveys are. We need to remember that communications is a two way street. Just one definition:

    Two-way process of reaching mutual understanding, in which participants not only exchange (encode-decode) information, news, ideas and feelings but also create and share meaning. In general, communication is a means of connecting people or places. In business, it is a key function of management–an organization cannot operate without communication between levels, departments and employees.

    From reading the information, I don’t think communication is the issue, I believe poor leadership is the issue and communications is only one aspect of good leadership. Again, the survey is only highlighting symptoms of poor leadership which is the core problem.

  4. Skip Weisman says:

    Thanks for stopping by and being inspired to comment here. I agree that the survey is pointing out symptoms of poor leadership, and that it is a core problem. I’d argue with you that communication is just “only one aspect of good leadership.” It is THE aspect of good leadership. Everything is related to communication in some way, shape or form, I believe. Can you think of an aspect of leadership that is not related to communication at all?

    An interesting philosophical question?

  5. Skip Weisman says:

    Thanks for stopping by and being inspired to comment. Yes, emailitis (I love that term), is a problem and has been a comment by virtually everyone I’ve interviewed for the Communication Challenge initiative I’m embarking on with a colleague. You can read more about it here

    Yes, too many people hiding behind e-mails instead of having a direct conversation, too many people putting too much information in emails, too many people “replying-all” to emails when unnecessary, the list can go on.

    Any solutions you’ve instituted that have been effective for you?

  6. Skip Weisman says:

    Thanks, Sally, glad to have you back commenting here. That’s good to know the 360 feedback is consistent with everyone’s experience. The real question will be what is done with it and what constructive development can come from it? How will it all be perceived?

  7. Ed Donald says:

    I have to agree with you, it is an interesting philosophical question. Communications is indeed the foundation of great leadership. Leaders do need other skills and knowledge but I will agree that is does start with clear communications.

  8. Kenn says:

    Hello Skip,

    Good stuff!
    I see they word “refusing” is used a few times. That is a very emotional word and denotes a break somewhere. As the word is being enlisted here that is a highly powerful assertion. Just saying…

    I would like to add that communication is two way. Having consistent dialog from the top down is great but more times than not the responsibility is given strictly to the higher level (title wise). No worries right? Well, where does the two way portion of this come in?

    For example, I ask my team not to just walk into my area and start dropping issues and to-do’s for me. Let’s exchange pleasantries, ask me how I am doing and then let’s go from there. Manager is what I do but it is not who I am, right? I am human.

    Then there is an invisible “us vs. them” type of wall that management must bust through before some employees decide to allow a natural communication to happen. Not certain where it comes from (last job, bad ex boss etc) but there are those that walk in the door not trusting management that they have never worked with.

    While most of the communication in these instances seemingly fall to the higher title holder, I would like to challenge people to just try and interact without the titles and see how that works.

    Lastly, there are seemingly too many “preferences” that have made their way into the workplace these days. 100 people needing and wanting 200 different things. I am always leery of these types of questions/list as I believe that when people get a chance to shift the blame then they will. Given a chance to shoot down management, most will.

    Good, bad or indifferent we all hold some level of responsibility to communicate in the workplace. I’d be interested to know what the numbers are for employees that believe they model this behaviors themselves.

    That said let’s revisit the list:

    They don’t recognize employee achievements (63%) (How many tell their manager great job)
    Not giving clear directions (57%) (I thought it was clear to you. Let me know if it wasn’t)
    Not having time to meet with employees (52%) (no need to wait, take ownership and set the calendar invite)
    Refusing to have conversations with subordinates (51%)* (refusing? again a strong word)
    Taking credit for others’ ideas (47%)* (document your thoughts and then submit them)
    Not offering constructive criticism (39%)* (if I offered that every time it came to mind I’d be a know it all)
    Not knowing employees’ names (36%)* (how big is the group)
    Refusing to talk to people on the phone/in person, emailing only (34%)* (the word refusing is strong but if you are not aware of someone’s schedule and commitments then you cannot speak to how, what or why they communicate)

    All in all a very interesting read!

  9. Skip Weisman says:

    You make some very valid points. I, too, felt the language of “refusing” not just strong but judgmental. Have these people come out and said they “will not” or “refuse” to do these things or is it just that their behavior is acting as if and an assumption is being made. You are absolutely right regarding the two-way flow and that the team member/employee needs to step up and confront the issue in a respectful manner for what they need and aren’t getting, and also model the behavior as you suggest.

    Thank you investing the time and energy to post your thoughts, which I think added tremendously to the discussion here. Please come back again.

  10. A. K. M. Suzaur Rahman says:

    Well, communication is clearly most neglected and least taught aspects of leadership or organization development.

    This result is representative even for South Asia where I reside. That suggests a global drive is necessary.

    It would be nice to have a course on workplace communication in business studies. And firm to teach this in many parts in the world.

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