Busting 10 common communication myths at the workplace

Ana Erkic

Last updated on: January 20, 2022

We’ve all fallen victim to some of the common misbeliefs surrounding workplace communication. 

For example, you may by now have realized that it’s completely ridiculous to rely solely on email  — but there are plenty of other, seemingly plausible communication myths misinforming internal communication at your workplace.

Although some of these perceived pearls of wisdom may seem harmless, they can seriously harm your company’s bottom line. According to a report by Holmes, it’s estimated that poor communication costs the average organization $62.4 million per year. 

To help you avoid this nightmare scenario, we will debunk the 10 most common communication myths at the workplace, and offer their more effective alternatives to help your organization’s communication thrive.  

Busting 10 common communication myths at the workplace - cover

Why busting communication myths is important

In addition to preventing considerable money loss, there are additional advantages to busting communication myths and developing more effective internal communication. 

Let’s get a closer look at how your organization can benefit from rebuking common communication myths. 

Improved productivity 📈

Effective communication is one of the key factors impacting employee productivity. According to a report by CMSWire, 97% of employees agree that communication directly affects their performance and productivity. Even though this might not be a groundbreaking discovery, it’s important to point out, as a great number of companies today still tend to overlook the role workplace communication plays in overall productivity. 

Talent retention 👩🏻‍💼

Again, not surprisingly, organizations that continually work to improve their internal communication are more likely to attract and retain top talent. 

As mentioned earlier, employees understand the role communication plays in their daily work. Therefore, it’s not uncommon for businesses practicing effective communication to see up to a 4.5 increase in employee retention.  

Increased employee engagement 👨‍💻

Employees working in an organization committed to effective communication will more likely feel better connected to the company culture and mission. Ultimately, productive communication drives performance and increases employee effort and commitment to their jobs. It plays into the overarching human need to belong to a community — and, organizations that facilitate strong communication strategies have realized how to utilize this to their advantage. 

More trust 🤝

Businesses that believe and perpetuate dated communication myths have a hard time building trust with their teams. After all, it’s always a matter of time before employees realize some outright manipulative or misleading communication techniques. Open workplace communication, on the other hand, is crucial for building better connections and facilitating trust. In fact, a whopping 80% of Americans believe internal communication is the key factor to facilitating trust with organizations. 

10 Workplace communication myths, busted

A healthy workplace culture depends on productive internal communication. For this to happen, organizations need to do away with toxic myths that harm workplace communication and disrupt productive collaboration. Let’s dive in to discover how the ten most common communication myths impact your workplace collaboration and how to ditch them once and for all. 

Communication myth #1: Communication is good if it feels good

Our first, and probably the most common myth surrounding workplace communication, can be best summed up by the words of George Bernard Shaw, recipient of the 1925 Nobel Prize for Literature: 

The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.

We are conditioned to believe that if we leave a conversation feeling good about ourselves and how we interacted with others it means we’ve communicated well with someone. 

So, if we presented our points logically, remained calm and assertive, and even managed to solve some problems, we may assume we had a great conversation. 

Busting the myth: Feeling good is not the goal of effective communication

If we assess the workplace communication success using only these parameters, we will most certainly fail to factor in one of the key communication success parameters — understanding. In other words, as much as we would like to think we have communicated well with someone, we can’t determine this if we fail to take into account whether the other participants in the conversations managed to understand what we were trying to convey. Ultimately, relying solely on our own, biased feelings when assessing the quality of workplace communication, can cause several workplace challenges. We can experience delays, missed deadlines, and an overall drop in performance and productivity. Additionally, misunderstanding often leads to misalignment, frustration, and conflicts among teammates.  

The truth behind the myth: Communication is good when you’re understood

We can agree that it’s time to put this communication myth to rest and try a different, more inclusive approach to workplace communication. 

  • To ensure better understanding, start paying more attention to the clarity of your messages — both verbal and written. Understandably, the majority of remote workplace communication is asynchronous. And this only adds more responsibility to the people creating the content to double-check for clarity. 
  • Consider upgrading your listening skills and paying close attention to the responses you get during a conversation. 
  • Try to observe more during video conferences or meetings to get more insight from the subtle, non-verbal cues.
  • Repeat and rephrase what others have said to make sure you understand. Don’t hesitate to ask questions and/or provide feedback, depending on the type of situation.

Rather than relying solely on feel-good emotions, productive communication suggests all parties are allowed the opportunity to engage and reach understanding. 

Communication myth #2: Workplace communication is a one-way street

One of the biggest and longest prevailing workplace communication myths is the belief that successful internal communication begins and ends with information distribution. Sending out company information to employees is a vital part of internal communication, but, despite the popular belief, it’s only just the beginning of effective workplace communication. For example, while downward communication comes in handy in some situations that require efficiency and quick problem-solving, it doesn’t allow any employee feedback.   

Despite all the knowledge and data on internal communication best practices, many organizations still view internal communication within these limiting terms. 

Busting the myth: One-way communication leads to misinterpretations

Most of the time, one-sided communication is misinterpreted by the receiver. In this case, teams are left to fend for themselves when interpreting company information and knowledge. More often than not, this practice backfires due to misunderstandings. Misunderstandings lead to a lack of trust, which can also be tied to a lack of company-wide conversations regarding company vision. When people feel uncertain about the general company vision, they will find it difficult to engage and find their job meaningful. 

The truth behind the myth: Effective communication is two-way communication

Suffice to say, this one-way approach doesn’t work. Internal communication should be a dialogue — a space where all parties and stakeholders get to share their opinion and perspective. The sooner organizations start acknowledging employee communication as one of the key factors for trust-building, the better the overall engagement and connection will get. 

To facilitate more trust and build employee morale, companies can consider creating space for open internal dialogues. Rather than just to inform, solid internal communication serves to inspire, engage, motivate, nurture, and connect employees under a shared company vision. 

Here are some steps to take to invite more dialogue. 

1. Rethink the communication channels you use

Are your internal communication channels user-friendly? Do they allow enough space and time efficiency for a seamless dialogue? If not, consider switching to more intuitive solutions such as virtual team chat apps which allow plenty of flexible functionalities to inspire your workforce to engage in important company conversations. 

An example of a quick company conversation (Pumble business messaging app)
An example of a quick company conversation (Pumble business messaging app)

2. Assess your internal content for clarity

Double-check every document, each piece of content, or message distributed in your team messaging app to make sure there are no vague or ambiguous phrasing that could be potentially misinterpreted.

An example of a clear announcement (Pumble business messaging app)
An example of a clear announcement (Pumble business messaging app)

3. Solicit feedback

Encourage all team members to engage and provide their points of view. The easiest way to achieve this without adding to employee workload is to instruct your teammates to use thread messages in your company chat app, for more elaborate feedback, or, simple emoji reactions to signal they’ve read and understood the announcement.

Quick emoji reactions (Pumble business messaging app)
Quick emoji reactions (Pumble business messaging app)

4. Encourage dialogue

It’s important to let your teammates know their perspective is valued and welcomed, and that you view internal communication as a two-way street. To communicate this effectively, be sure to ask questions and invite people to share their opinion.

5. Create opportunities for connection

To foster a sense of community where each member is welcomed to take part in the conversation, it’s a good idea to go beyond the general company conversations. By allowing a space for people to talk and bond over shared interests, you’re fostering a connected culture open to sharing and taking part in the dialogue.

An example of an informal employee conversation (Pumble business messaging app)
An example of an informal employee conversation (Pumble business messaging app)

Communication myth #3: Internal communication is a one department job

IC or HR most commonly get to do all the heavy lifting when it comes to workplace communication. And this is perfectly reasonable if we only consider the part that involves crafting and defining the internal communication strategy. Unfortunately, in most cases, the implementation of the entire internal communication strategy remains the responsibility of only one department.

Busting the myth: Employee input is limited when only one department handles internal communication

The obvious problem with this communication myth and approach is that employees are left out of the conversation and have no opportunity to give feedback or impact the strategy in any way. Understandably, this can make them feel disconnected from the company culture. Ultimately, the entire workforce can lose trust in the organization. And even worse — all team leaders could start replicating this detrimental communication pattern within teams which breeds a harmful silo mentality and other destructive team behavior. 

The truth behind the myth: Everyone plays a role in internal communications

A healthy organizational culture requires all hands on deck when it comes to internal communication. Once the IC or HR team crafts an internal communication plan, employees should be allowed to give feedback and join the conversation to ensure they understand the company vision and how it relates to the work they are performing. Managers need to be involved as well so that they can promote the same mentality within their teams. Moreover, employees should be encouraged to contribute to content creation and distribution — and thus foster better collaboration across the organization.

Communication myth #4: The more you communicate, the better

Organizations often get into the information overload trap. On the one hand, it’s seemingly reasonable to believe that more emails, messages, meetings, and more shared files automatically translate into better communication and productivity. However, it’s important to make a clear distinction between relevant business information, and insignificant, distracting content. 

Busting the myth: Information overload damages employee engagement

The ‘more is better’ mentality is a slippery slope to information overload. Before you know it, your team may start to show the signs which include poor decision-making, decreased productivity, and general disconnection and misalignment, in addition to deteriorated employee well-being. Of course, when done correctly, “information overload” is actually overcommunication and can improve employee engagement and understanding. However, any form of unnecessary info-dumping is always counterproductive.  

The truth behind the myth: Quality trumps quantity in workplace communication 

For a more productive and employee-friendly approach, try the complete opposite. Consider focusing on quality instead of quantity to better manage your company’s information intake. It’s also important to continually assess information for clarity, in addition to reducing the number of channels for content distribution. Moreover, make sure to mind the timing of the conversations to ensure you’re not overloading your employees by distracting them during focused, productive work. 

Communication myth #5: Email should be your primary workplace communication channel

As one of the most commonly used tools, email has remained the primary communication tool in many organizations. This is somewhat understandable as it seems like the most formal form of workplace communication. And, as one of the first digital communication tools, it mostly stuck around solely for its sentimental value — because we can all agree email is not that efficient for the new, remote communication demands

Busting the myth: Email reduces productivity

From delays in communication to the general clutter and chaos, email is responsible for the majority of communication challenges in the modern workplace environment. Research shows in-office workers receive over 100 emails per day which can lead to employee anxiety. Moreover, email communication carries a high risk for developing siloed communication among teams. 

The truth behind the myth: Virtual chat apps allow a more balanced approach to workplace communication than emails

Low open rates, spam filters, and other email features increase the risk of missed information and add to misunderstandings. Not to mention how time-consuming and altogether inefficient it is to use email in everyday workplace communication. In fact, an average full-time worker in America spends 2.6 hours per day on email. No matter how sentimental you may feel about emails, it’s simply not worth losing potential clients, for example, while waiting for a response confirmation from your superior. 

Business messaging and video chat apps and project management software all provide a more efficient email alternative by supporting faster communication and collaboration. With features like channels, threads, direct messages, emoji reactions, and file sharing, team chat apps allow for a more productive collaborative experience and streamlined workplace communication. 

Pumble lets you streamline your workplace communication
Pumble lets you streamline your workplace communication

Communication myth #6: Social media and team messaging apps promote the toxic ‘always-on’ work mindset

It’s commonly believed that team messaging and social media apps encourage the always-on culture. To some extent, this is a reasonable claim if we consider the constant pings and notification alerts buzzing in the background as you’re trying to relax after a long workday. On the other hand, there are plenty more pros to using team communication apps that make it worth exploring different options to ensure business chat is not distracting your team during their off-work hours. 

Busting the myth: Workplace expectations permeate the negative culture 

The struggle to unplug after work is one of the most common challenges in remote work. In fact, 27% of remote workers report experiencing trouble unplugging while working remotely. However, as much as notification pings may trigger anxiety and FOMO to some extent, we can’t blame the messenger here, when the actual workplace culture is the main culprit in this case. As long as there’s the expectation for remote workers to check their messages outside of work hours, we can’t put the blame on the app.

Therefore, by letting business messaging and social media apps take the responsibility for the “always-on” mindset, we’re failing to address the actual cause of the problem.  

Moreover, by reaffirming the myth we are failing to recognize the many benefits these apps bring to workplace communication. 

Contrary to popular opinion, social media apps can provide a valuable addition to your internal communications strategy. Teams can use popular social media platforms to encourage junior employers to engage with management and contribute to the overall company culture. Similarly, team messaging apps, when used properly, support a healthy workplace culture. In addition to allowing more efficient, streamlined communication and collaboration, team chat apps drive better connections across remote and in-office teams. 

The truth behind the myth: When used properly, social and business messaging apps contribute to a healthy workplace culture 

Contrary to popular belief, virtual chat and social media apps offer plenty of opportunities to achieve the perfect work-life balance in a remote environment. In addition to supporting better team connection, virtual communication tools allow plenty of functionalities to improve and personalize your team’s communication experience. Let’s take a closer look at how team chat apps can create more flexible communication at the workplace, using the team messaging app Pumble, as an example.

💬 Centralized communication. Pumble lets all your team members communicate, share files, collaborate and give feedback all from a single, user-friendly interface. No annoying back-and-forth emails and delayed replies. 

An example of a team conversation in a public team channel (Pumble business messaging app)
An example of a team conversation in a public team channel (Pumble business messaging app)

💬 Customizable workplace communication experience. With Pumble, anyone can create their own personalized notification schedule. Your team can choose which conversations they want to receive notifications for and when. This is especially valuable for teams working on specific projects when they need to mute everything else and focus only on conversations and work on the project. Pumble lets you mute threads, messages, or channels that are irrelevant at a specific time. This is especially useful when you want to unplug after work and not receive any notifications. 

Notification settings (Pumble business messaging app)
Notification settings (Pumble business messaging app)

💬 Additionally, you can set your availability status to easily communicate your current status and reduce the volume and control the timing of the incoming notifications.

Setting your availability status (Pumble business messaging app)
Setting your availability status (Pumble business messaging app)

💬 User-friendly interface. Pumble supports plenty of keyboard shortcuts to allow smooth navigation between conversations. It also comes with a customizable sidebar to help teams create unique spaces, and a dark theme to allow a dimmed, less distracting experience for people chatting with colleagues during evenings.

Dark theme (Pumble business messaging app)
Dark theme (Pumble business messaging app)

Communication myth #7: The Sandwich approach guarantees assertive communication

The so-called Sandwich approach in business communication has been largely popularized by managers who most commonly use it when discussing problematic performance reviews. In general, managers are less comfortable giving feedback, which led to the wide adoption of the Sandwich method in workplace communication. The myth suggests communicating by using a three-step procedure. In most cases, when trying to convey negative feedback to their team members, managers would place the actual critique between two compliments so that it lands better. 

This is one of those communication myths that may seem reasonable at first, but once you let it become a common practice, you immediately see the flipside of the coin. 

Busting the myth: The Sandwich approach creates distrust     

While it may sound less harsh to the person communicating the feedback, the Sandwich approach hardly ever succeeds in delivering the intended message. Employees receiving the feedback can get misdirected and focus only on the positive comments and completely miss the main point — the part that needs improvements. In addition to being time-consuming and causing delays, the method can also seriously affect employee trust.   

The truth behind the myth: Direct, constructive feedback is more effective

It’s time to finally put this communication myth to rest. Let’s face it — we are all aware of the technique and it’s become way too obvious and thus, it comes off completely insincere and misleading. When people feel manipulated they tend to lose trust. Moreover, the approach is too time-consuming, especially on projects with short deadlines and urgent situations that require quick reactions. 

Contrary to the popular myth — you can be assertive and still remain honest. Cutting to the chase is very much appreciated in assertive workplace communication, as long as you convey it in a respectful manner and tone. Let’s take a look at an example that illustrates the Sandwich approach vs. a more effective alternative. 

🔶 Example:  Sally is managing a design team. Mark — a team member, has submitted a design that requires extensive editing.

Instead of: 

🔇 Starting with praise for the general concept and effort Mark has put in

🔇 Continuing with the actual feedback on the parts that need improvement

🔇 Finalizing the feedback by reaffirming the positive comment on the overall design

Sally can:

🔊 Cut to the chase and give direct, clear comments on the parts that need improvement. There will be more time and space for elaborate feedback on the general quality of Mark’s work during the official performance review.  

Communication myth #8: Employees understand the company’s mission and vision

It’s a common practice for organizations to simply assume their employees understand and are well aware of the company mission and vision statement. After all, it’s out there, on the website, which means it’s clearly communicated and received. 

Busting the myth: Insufficient information affects employee motivation and engagement

This mindset is responsible for causing unnecessary frustration and lower employee engagement. When employees don’t have a clear understanding of how their work adds value and contributes to the overarching vision, they can’t be expected to perform their job properly nor align with the company goals. Furthermore, the company mission and vision statements help foster a sense of belonging to a community, which is particularly important as it drives employee motivation to work harder. On a more general level, mission statements guide the entire organizational culture, along with playing a pivotal role in talent attraction. 

The truth behind the myth: Mission-driven workforces perform better 

We can safely say that this specific workplace communication myth is a false assumption. A whopping 61% of employees report not knowing their company’s mission, which is clear indicator organizations need to put more effort into communicating it more clearly. Otherwise, people will find it more challenging to engage, believe in the product, and ultimately perform better. 

To avoid this outcome, make sure your employees are well informed on where your company is heading. 

  • You can use available channels in your team chat app to inform all teams of your general mission and vision and share regular updates with new directions. Consider using #general channel for the overall vision, or specific channels for individual products and projects.
  • Make sure to allow enough space for employee feedback and questions to promote inclusive company culture.
  • Instruct team leaders to transparently highlight important team and company goals during team meetings.  

Communication myth #9: Internal and external communication should be kept separate

Most often companies still operate under the illusion that internal and external communication are two separate functions. Of course, this is just another deep-rooted communication myth we should leave behind. Just because internal and external comms belong in separate departments doesn’t necessarily mean they are not interconnected. It’s high time we debunked this myth by bridging the gap between internal and external workplace comms. 

Busting the myth: Disconnected communication departments affect collaboration and brand image

When internal and external communications are not aligned, the entire company-wide collaboration is at risk. After all, cross-department collaboration relies on productive and effective communication, and it is precisely communications departments that inform company-wide communication. 

Moreover, this misalignment impacts the overall company brand and without a collaborative effort between the two departments, companies can’t create a consistent brand message. After all, your external communications begin inside the company with employees as your first customers that need to understand and align with your external brand messaging in order to believe in your product and work towards your goals. 

Let’s say you invite an external contractor or a client to your team messaging app, and provide them with guest access to your workspace. In this example, it becomes impossible to determine where your internal comms end and external begin — as it often should be. And if these two are not aligned, you risk presenting a vague and inconsistent brand image in your communication with third parties.

Guest role access (Pumble business messaging app)
Guest role access (Pumble business messaging app)

The truth behind the myth: Integrated approach to workplace communication builds better brand image 

To apply a more productive alternative, consider instructing your internal and external comms to work together on crafting a consistent brand message and internal communication strategy, which they can then share with other teams to ensure unified and consistent communication across all teams and departments.   

Communication myth #10: Anything goes in virtual communication

As teams started switching to a remote work environment, so did the majority of workplace communication move to a virtual setting. Almost by default, teams have adopted an informal approach to communication. As the virtual chat apps resemble the flexible and more relaxed approach of social media, it somehow got translated into the ‘no-rules-apply’ approach. 

Busting the myth: Too informal workplace communication breeds misunderstanding

When things get too informal and out of control, trust and productive collaboration tend to suffer the most. Teams with wide generation gaps, for example, are at a higher risk of miscommunication and misunderstanding if there are no clear boundaries concerning the use of informal slang in virtual workplace communication. Very often informal messages can get interpreted as disrespectful, boundaries are crossed and feelings get hurt. A lack of clarity hinders collaboration and impacts trust within organizations. 

The truth behind the myth: Chat etiquette rules still apply

As much as it’s refreshing to wave the unproductive emails goodbye, and shift to more relaxed and less formal workplace communication, there are still some common-sense rules to follow for effective virtual workplace communication. To avoid chaotic, too informal communication practice taking root in your organization, consider setting some basic guidelines to define and foster productive and respectful workplace communication.    

Wrapping up

It’s easy to fall prey to common workplace communication myths. However, as harmless as some of these popular assumptions may seem, they can create much more serious communication issues if left unattended. Debunking the common communication myths is the first step to building more effective workplace communication. Use the tips provided in this article to abandon the toxic assumption mentality and adopt a more effective communication practice in your organization.    

Author: AnaErkic

Ana Erkic is a team communication and collaboration writer. When she is not researching the most productive collaboration techniques, she can usually be found trying out the latest team chat and collaboration tools and apps.

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