Management is not simply about working with other people, but guiding them as a team or unit. With meetings, emails, and calls, the majority of what a manager does is communicate - but how can you tell if you're doing so effectively? What signs can you look for between team members to spot communication breakdowns before they cause disaster?

Here are five indications that your team isn't getting the memo, your grapevine has weeds or there's an overly complicated game of telephone going on:

You Aren't Surprised When Work Is Done Incorrectly

When you think about it, this is a pretty obvious red flag, but many find that the progression to actually expecting work to be done incorrectly the first (or second, or third) time is so slow that they don't really notice the change until it's too late.

If you find that you are opening documents, or inspecting products or designs, with an internal expectation that you'll need to correct and ask the employee to resubmit, it's time to evaluate how you're communicating project specifications. If you're building in extra time to help with those edits, this need is urgent.

If you end up doing half or more of the editing yourself, the ill-health of your communication is leading your team - and yourself - to disaster from overwork, underproduction, and sinking morale.

Work is Frequently Duplicated, or Missed Entirely

In a similar vein to the above, is it no longer uncommon for two or more team members to do the exact same project? Have assignments - or specifications for assignments - fallen through the cracks?

This is likely due to a poor project management system, which often is no one person's fault, but rather a lack of general updates. If upgrading to a project management software platform that fits your needs is impossible, either due to budget or practicality, consider bringing your team together and discussing common project management methodologies, and borrowing pieces that seem effective.

Employees Seem Unfamiliar or Unsure of General Company Strategy

It's easy to get lost in the minutiae of individual projects and tasks, but it's important to take a step back on a regular basis, and review company strategy. The "why" for how projects is done is as important as the "what," especially when it comes to maintaining consistency between outputs.

In fact, only a third of employees say that they have a high level of strategy understanding for their company, which, when boiled down, means that they don't really know why they're doing what they're doing. By keeping general strategy from employees, the effect is that tasks become meaningless. This can lead to feelings of busywork and discontent, and ultimately, team failure.

There's No Trust

This extends past work, though it's directly affected by productivity and team structures. If it seems like the majority of your team don't trust each other, even on an interpersonal level, it's likely caused by individuals being dissatisfied with their fellows' output, and feeling that they're unreliable. This can ruin the rest of their relationship, even the aspects that are not strictly professional.

If your employees are no longer friends, or at least friendly, it's time to address the problem and get everyone back on the same page.

High Turnover Rate

Obviously, talent leaving at an accelerated rate is one of the final warnings that communication is sub-par. The best talent are aware of their worth, and will not stand for teams in which they feel they've been thrown to the wolves, or their concerns fall on deaf ears.

Team Has Become Too Comfortable With Each Other

On the flip side of the previous two points, if your team has become overly comfortable - especially if they no longer behave as if they're in a workplace at all, but rather a pub - it may mean that priorities and expectations are so muddled that they're nonexistent.

If your team is starting to show signs of poor communication, the best thing you can do for it is to - wait for it - talk to them about it. Work with them to design a communication and project management system that works for everyone. After all, what is a company if not a group of people working towards a common goal?

Published on: Nov 22, 2016
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