Why 75% of Workplace Conversations Are Unproductive

While delivering a recent leadership communication training with a client’s management team, one of my students expressed frustration over an inability to get on the same page with a business partner.

After a brief exchange I realized that my student was speaking to the right person but the focus of the conversation was in the wrong place (Lower Right in diagram – Right Person/Wrong Conversation).

This is just one of three “wrong” conversations taking place in workplaces every day.

A little later in the same training another student expressed frustration with a conversation she was having trying to solve a problem with another team member. In this conversation she realized neither of them had the authority or control in the situation to take the necessary action to solve the problem.

This woman was having the right conversation but with the wrong person(Upper Left in diagram – Wrong Person/Right Conversation).  The conversation needed to be with the person who did have such authority.

After this exchange I realized there were four possible conversations that can take occur in any workplace, and three of them are less than optimal.


The third challenging conversation is one that should absolutely be avoided, or used very judiciously, at best. This is what I call the wrong conversation with the wrong person (Lower Left in diagram – Wrong Person/Wrong Conversation).

This amounts to complaining and whining. It should only be allowed in small doses for venting and stress release and then a move to one of the more empowering conversations should be facilitated.

The optimal conversation we should be promoting in our workplaces is the fourth of the possible conversations, which is the right conversation with the right person (Upper Right in diagram – Right Person/Right Conversation).

This is conversation where progress can be made since the proper people are discussing the issues that need to be discussed, and resolutions can be developed.

If you are frustrated with the progress of certain relationships, projects, problems or decisions, review this double-axis chart to identify which quadrant your conversations are in.

Then, decide which conversation quadrant you need to be in to move your situation forward, and work on moving them there.

I’ve done more coaching on this model in the last six months than anything else because it is very difficult to realize which of the three unproductive quadrants you are in. An outside perspective is very helpful to work through this workplace communication model.

Hopefully, this model of The 4 Workplace Conversations can help you be a more effective communicator. I encourage your feedback on this model. Let me know if this resonates for you and how you can apply it in your world.

Thanks for reading and commenting below.

All the best,


P.S. To discover more about this, 1-on-1, claim one of our Championship Caliber Company Strategy Sessions now.