5 Examples of Common Miscommunications in the Workplace — and How to Overcome Them

Miscommunication at work – the what, why, and how


What is workplace miscommunication?

Workplace miscommunication is misinterpretation or misconstrued messages that can potentially lead to internal conflict and/or employee dissatisfaction.

Language is a beautiful yet tricky art form. Difficult to interpret at times, a little misunderstanding can turn a compliment into an act of war. Fortunately, by practicing effective communication in the workplace, we can continue to hide the nuclear missile codes and strive for office peace. Here are five examples of common miscommunications in the workplace, and how to work past them:

5 Examples of workplace miscommunications

What they say:

I do all the work, and they get all the praise.

What they mean:

I’ve noticed that my peers are being recognized without me. Am I doing something wrong? I need feedback.

How to handle it:

Take a step back and analyze the comment. There is value in what your employee is saying — you just have to listen. Next assess the statement. Are they being overlooked? If so, is it performance-based or due to something else? Should you find that recognition is due, don’t be afraid to get a little creative in showing appreciation to your team.

What they say:

I’m working way too much for the amount I’m paid.

What they mean:

I feel overworked and undervalued.

How to handle it:

Stop for a moment to think about the responsibilities and how they have grown through their tenure at the organization. Does their pay commensurate with their experience? If it does, take a look at their workload, it’s possible they may be feeling burnt out. If that’s the case, there are ways to help cope with burnout

What they say:

I’m feeling a bit bored in my role and finishing tasks quickly.

What they mean:

I’d like more responsibility.

How to handle it:

This is a great challenge to have. Look for ways to leverage their strengths in new projects — such as committees, cross-functional team work, side projects, etc. Additionally, have a conversation about any skills they need to develop to take the next step in their career. Demonstrating that there is room for growth also acts as a real incentive for your employees to excel in the workplace.

What they say:

I feel like all this work is going nowhere.

What they mean:

I need vision.

How to handle it:

As a leader, it is your duty to rev up the troops each and every day. You have to find ways to connect an employees’ job responsibilities to the mission of the company. For example, explain how this individual’s role contributes to their team’s goals, and ultimately, the company’s goals. The KPMG purpose campaign is a great example of executing this on a large scale to engage employees at all levels. 

What they say:

It’s easier to do everything myself.

What they mean:

I’m scared to fail.

How to handle it:

Delegation is a challenge for many upcoming leaders. The more experienced leader understands that you have to delegate in order to accomplish rigorous goals. Help your employee avoid micromanagement by showing them the art of delegating. Explain how their time could be used more effectively in other ways, and provide specific examples.  


How to avoid workplace miscommunication – Reading between the lines

It’s a real challenge for many to say what they truly mean, leading to frequent miscommunications in the workplace.  Assume positive intent, and take what you know about the employee to read between the lines. Digest and respond to their message, and then coach them on how to communicate it more effectively in the future. This will lead to more positive and understanding internal dialogue. 


Looking to develop an open, communicative culture? Learn how CultureIQ can help. 

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