Think about it: Good communication is everything in the workplace. Clear direction and expectations can't happen without it. Teamwork and morale take a hit in its absence. And productivity ultimately suffers without it.

Communicating well is the one critical skill that 91 percent of 1,000 employees in a recent Interact/Harris Poll said their leaders lack.

Drilling down further, the survey results indicate a much deeper issue: a lack of emotional intelligence (EQ) in how business leaders and managers communicate, leading to many dysfunctions.

The Problem

Respondents said the communication issues that impair effective leadership are as follows:

  • Not recognizing employee achievements -- reported by 63 percent of respondents
  • Not giving clear directions -- 57 percent
  • Not having time to meet with employees -- 52 percent
  • Refusing to talk to subordinates -- 51 percent
  • Taking credit for others' ideas -- 47 percent
  • Not offering constructive criticism -- 39 percent
  • Not knowing employees' names -- 36 percent
  • Refusing to talk to people on the phone/in person -- 34 percent
  • Not asking about employees' lives outside of work -- 23 percent

Employees also called out other management offenses stemming from low EQ: micromanaging, bullying, narcissism, indecisiveness, and more.

The Solution

Healthy and productive communication requires connection and authenticity. It means being intentional about inclusion, praise and recognition, meaningful interaction, and two-way feedback.

The study's author, Interact CEO Lou Solomon, offered these gold nuggets in an article she wrote for Harvard Business Review:

1. Offer specific praise. "Great job" and other "atta-boys" and "atta-girls" just aren't enough to satisfy people who put their heart and soul into their work. Instead, be specific about their contributions when praising employees.

2. Give personal and public thank-yous. Whether walking out to the parking lot together or grabbing lunch, make it personal and heartfelt. Try public recognition at a staff meeting, or a thoughtful thank-you in a newsletter or e-mail or on yellow sticky notes in employees' offices.

3. Ask employees for their opinions. Leaders need to make a habit of asking employees for their opinions and ideas on issues or roadblocks to success. Ask: "How do you think we could improve?" "What is keeping us stuck?" and "What do you love about the work that we're doing here?"

4. Share information. Important information is often withheld from employees until the last minute, which can hurt morale and cause anxiety. Leaders will gain more respect from their team if they share as much information as possible as soon as they can.

5. Provide feedback on an ongoing basis. Leaders that give their staff ongoing feedback and coach them to good performance throughout the employee performance cycle will see great success.

6. Show your humanity. Leaders who are smart, who can admit mistakes, and who can laugh at their mistakes will gain the respect of their employees? at a much quicker rate. Employees like and trust leaders who are generous with what life has taught them.

7. Get to know your employees by name. Calling people by their name shows them you are giving them your attention, and you're connecting with them on an individual basis. If the company is too big to know everyone's name, start with the people in close proximity.