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It was the night of the big match. The boxer needed to conduct one final move to win.

His trainer shouted for the boxer to insert a cross punch. When the boxer heard the trainer’s command, he thought through all of the different punches they had practiced. Immediately, he realized they had never distinguished what constitutes as a cross punch. As he was drawing a blank, his opponent implemented a sucker punch, knocking the boxer out. The crowd was silent, the announcers were stunned. The trainer had called out the right move. So why did the boxer lose the match?

When a boxer and trainer do not have strong communication, scenarios like the above occur.  A cross punch can take several different forms, and when not conveyed properly, can lead to confusion and overall defeat in a boxing match.

Now, you may be wondering, how does this relate to the work place?  Much like a boxer and trainer needing to work out their strategies and develop a common language, so do employees and managers.  Within a company, it is critical that employees and managers use effective communication strategies to maintain their productivity.

There are many ways a simple task can get blown out of proportion due to miscommunication.  Most people have probably experienced or seen this common situation within the workplace.  Let’s imagine a manager provides an employee with a special assignment. However, this assignment doesn’t include full details, clear expectations, or a specified deadline, which leads to confusion and blame. Who is responsible?

Well, let’s put this question to the test!

Before we step into the ring, take a moment to think about a common frustration employees and managers deal within the workplace. Struggling? Hint hint…take a look at our title! Miscommunication can take many forms, many of which can lead to communication conflicts. Some of the more common types of examples are transparency and ambiguity.  Let’s evaluate how both parties can improve their communication flow.

DING DING, It’s Round 2: Employees vs. Mangers in this Communication Conflict match.

Coming in from the left…The Employee

Transparency: It is easy for employees to question those who lead them. An employee who does not get clarification on what is expected of them, can be left feeling confused, similar to the boxer.

  • Tip 1: In an attempt to communicate more effectively, employees should inform management of any questions or apprehensions. If concerns are not addressed promptly, employee might feel unprepared and overwhelmed (aka caught cold). Taking the initiative allows the employees to reach clarity faster and discover how their ringleader operates.
  • Tip 2: Employees should make an effort to understand the company’s vision and goals. Initiating a conversation will allow them to realize how their efforts impact the company and make any necessary improvements.

Ambiguity: If you find yourself caught in a situation dealing with ambiguity, don’t automatically assume it is a low blow. Ambiguity can be cryptic – employees may be led to believe leaders are intentionally withholding information from them, when in reality, managers might be providing you with the opportunity for growth.

  • Tip 1: It is up to you to clarify exactly what is expected of you in order to avoid potential miscommunication. Your manager might be challenging you and the situation only turns negative when you choose not to learn from the experience.
  • Tip 2: Criticism will most likely come in to play, and by interpreting that as a lesson and learning from it, employees will likely come to deal with ambiguity better in the future.

Communication: As previously discussed, relationships between managers and employees can often be viewed as a feud. Misconceptions and dissatisfaction can often result in an employee wanting to throw in the towel. Although leaders set the tone for communication methods in the workplace, employees need to make a solid effort to ensure they are doing their part as well.

  • Tip 1: Communicating effectively allows employees to build relationships with colleagues and strengthen relationships with managers, which promotes a sense of trust and increases the workplace functionality.
  • Tip 2: Effective communication also leads employees to be involve in decision-making, which can create a heightened amount of satisfaction.

Making their entrance from the right…The Manager

Transparency:  As a trainer, you are constantly judging how much information to share with your fighter.  All opponents are different; if you offer too much guidance, the fighter might implement the wrong tactics during the wrong match. The same can be applied for a manger in the work place.  If you disclose too much, it can be harmful to the company. If you share very little, your employees will lose respect, trust and question the company’s direction.

  • Tip 1: Take the time to talk with all employees about the company’s vision and big picture. If they understand, they will help to achieve that goal.
  • Tip 2: It’s ok to share problems you or the company might be facing. Your employees want to help.  At the end of the day, their goals are the same as yours. Allow everyone to work together to make the company successful.

Ambiguity: At one time or another, most managers probably have been a bit ambiguous with their employees, which can be a great learning strategy.  It can be encouraging, provide growth, and instill confidence, but only if it is applied appropriately.  Trainers also utilize this tactic when preparing the boxer for upcoming matches.   Ambiguity can improve the boxer’s confidence when making quick judgment calls.  However, ambiguity is a double-edged sword and if it is not used appropriately, it could lead your employees/boxer down a dark path of frustration, cause a lack of trust or ultimately leave them feeling defeated.

  • Tip 1: Don’t use this tool if you are looking for something specific. If you want something done a certain way, just let your employees know!
  • Tip 2: Not all employees will respond to this management style. Before using, make sure this fits your employee’s personality.

Communication:  When you’re a manager or a trainer, you set the tone as the leader of your team.  Being closed off- might lead your team to interpret the wrong message, creating frustration.  By displaying strong communication skills, you set the foundation for your team and give barriers the old one-two.

  • Tip 1: Having clear and direct communication will increase productivity and employee commitment.
  • Tip 2: Effective communication will minimize frustrations and maximize efficiency.

As this match comes to an end, the referee makes the call- We have a Draw!

When it comes to communication, it takes both employees and managers to step into the ring. By meeting each other half way, and tailoring their communication efforts, these situations can be easily avoided. At the end of the day, both groups contribute to the company’s success.  Now let’s shake hands and clear off as we prepare for Round 3: Feedback Feud.  See you next week!