Top Communication Fails

Common behaviors that are breaking trust, killing productivity, and just really annoying.

by Abbey Johnston | May 1, 2022

Communication is a force. It shapes our world, work, relationships and reality.  It also holds a high price tag for organizations when it’s not functioning well.  

Several studies have measured the financial loss resulting from inadequate communication to and between employees. No matter company size, these numbers are staggering.


Financial Loss Due to Inadequate Communication

100,000 Employees
-$62.4 million per year

100 Employees
-$420,000 per year

Beyond poor communication costing us A LOT of money, it also creates an environment that is incredibly difficult (and zero fun) to work in. It stunts our productivity and collaboration, and hijacks our ability to build trust. 

“Trust and commitment do not just happen; they are forged and maintained through effective communication.” Communication, Commitment, and Trust: Exploring the Triad


Effective communication holds incredible power.

When comparing organizations that boast effective communication to their counterparts that lack these skills, we see: 

    20-25% productivity increase

    3.5x higher performance

    4.5x greater retention

    McKinsey report | Workplace Communication Statistics

      20-25% productivity increase

      3.5x higher performance

      4.5x greater retention

      Top Communication Fails

      Many times a day, we are all (unintentionally) hijacking our interpersonal communication. Being aware of when it is happening is where we can start to interrupt this costly cycle. As with most efforts for change, it starts with awareness. 

      Here are three very common communication fails mucking up our organizations along with simple solutions.

        Communication Fail #1:
        Assuming we have communicated. 

        We live and work fast. It can feel like an unnecessary speed bump to slow down and check for understanding. More often than not, we are missing each other. There are too many factors to list that contribute to this misunderstanding so you’ll have to take our word for it. 

        Leave a margin at the end of meetings for clarification. 

        Save time and avoid future clean up if you actually assume you have NOT communicated effectively and build this into every important conversation:

        “My head has been going a million miles an hour around this strategy, project, etc. So, it would be super helpful for me to hear you share back to me what you’ve been hearing me say.  This is just so that I know I’ve effectively communicated.”

        “We’ve come near the end of the meeting, here is what I’m hearing are the key takeaways and action items… What would you add to this or take away? Who’s going to be responsible for these action items and when can we plan on them being completed?”

        Clarification does NOT sound like – “We all got this?! [Everyone, with vacant faces, nods yes obediently.] Great! Onward and upward.” And as you race out to the next thing you say, “Oh hey, if you have any questions let me know.”

        Communication Fail #2:
        Underestimating our non-verbals.

        Our presence is our most powerful communication tool. Let’s wield it wisely. 

        Communication is much more than the words we speak or type, 93% more in fact. Spoken and written words only account for 7% of interpersonal communication. [Source] Aside from a well-placed emoji, there are great gaps in email, text, slack because the receiver is always filling in the missing context, tone, emotion with assumptions. 

        Our bodies are always communicating. Someone can walk in a room and the whole space feels different instantly. We are subconsciously picking up on nonverbal cues:

        • how we say what we say – tone, volume, speed
        • and body language – posture, facial expressions, gestures

        When words and nonverbs mismatch – we believe NVs 100% of the time. The red-faced person screaming, “I’m fine!” is not fine.

        Reclaim nonverbal communication.

        Choose an appropriate medium. Take a hot sec to identify whether a phone call or face to face chat can replace a stream of emails or texts. Attention to the way we connect can buy back a lot of time, trust and productivity.

        Find a human mirror. Ask a person you know well to reflect the messages you are sending with your nonverbals (body language, tone, silence). Better yet, create a culture of naming it and getting curious with each other.

        Communication Fail #3:
        No one is listening.

        Active listening is essential to trust, collaboration, innovation, and strategic vision. Most of us are naturally terrible at this skill. 

        “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Steven Covey.

        Listening well is hard. Our brains and world are busy places and both are yelling at us to keep moving often at the expense of truly understanding. There are ways we can resist this urge, but as with any skill, listening well takes practice. Only 2% of professionals receive formal communication training, so here is a start.

        Build your listening skills: 

        Be present. When someone is speaking, we have to make space to actually hear it. Flip over the phone, shut the screen, breathe. Effective multitasking is a myth, especially when listening.

        Stay with them. Internal and external distractions will happen. You will lose focus and attention. That is normal. The goal is to notice it and come back.  A great tool for this is reflecting back what you hear, name anything you pick up from nonverbal cues and ask questions. Simply naming that you lost track can build trust.


        We have all felt the dysfunction and pain that result from ineffective interpersonal communication. Communication is the catalyst to team and organizational effectiveness. My hope is that more of us will experience the joy, synergy and success that comes from this powerful force.


        Transform your communication.
        Revolutionize your impact. 

        Explore our communication trainings for you & your team.


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