How to Address and Prevent Confusion in the Workplace

Confusion is one of the most frustrating aspects of running a business. And in our virtual world, simple communication problems have the potential to become catastrophic issues for businesses that don’t proactively emphasize clarity at every step of the way.

Possible Causes of Confusion in the Workplace

Confusion comes in a variety of flavors. Here are some possible causes:

  • False expectations. Sometimes employees are slow to respond or don’t follow through how you’d like because of a lack of clarity surrounding expectations. Either something hasn’t been communicated, or it hasn’t been communicated clearly enough. Unfortunately, the superior usually doesn’t realize there’s an issue of false expectations until it’s too late.
  • Lack of knowledge. A team member may be clear on what they need to know, but feel ill-equipped to actually do it. A lack of skill or knowledge creates a barrier to progress. This is usually evident in a lack of proper hiring and/or training.
  • Improper project assignments. If people are unclear on who is responsible for a project, who is involved, and/or where the handoffs occur, confusion automatically ensues.

These are just a few examples of possible causes of confusion. But at the end of the day, it all comes down to poor communication. Whether it’s false expectations, lack of knowledge, improper project assignments, or something else entirely, communication is to blame. When correcting your communication problems, you can improve efficiency, bolster productivity, and enjoy secondary benefits like greater employee satisfaction and lower turnover.

3 Ways to Improve Communication and Reduce Confusion

Confusion can be catastrophic for a team. It suppresses morale, damages relationships, and results in poor innovation and inadequate customer service. Fatigue, overwhelm, and anxiety are all natural byproducts – but it can be avoided.

Want to reduce confusion through improved communication? Try these helpful tips and strategies:

1. Set Ground Rules

Never assume that your team is on the same page. If you leave everyone up to their own devices, they’ll choose how and when they communicate. This creates an unpredictable environment where confusion is rampant. It’s much better to set clear ground rules and expectations.

Be clear about how people are to communicate, what terminology is used when there are technical topics, when to communicate, when not to communicate, etc. This may seem like overkill, but it gives people something dependable to filter communication through.

2. Establish a Chain of Command

The chain of command is vital for smooth communication. Everyone should have a clear idea of who they report to and who reports to them. Teams should be clearly identified and everyone needs to know who is responsible for what.

One of the biggest benefits of a clear chain of command is a lack of wasted time. When there’s no identifiable chain, everyone gets brought into every problem. This slows down workflows and causes unnecessary distractions. By identifying proper workflows, there’s greater focus and less confusion.

3. Choose the Right Tools

Which tools are you using to foster communication within your organization? With so many different options to choose from, it can be challenging to know which direction to go.

As a general rule of thumb, speed and simplicity are the two factors to evaluate. And though email is the go-to business option, it’s much better suited for outwardly facing communication. For internal purposes, you’re better off using something like text messaging, also known as SMS.

SMS is all about keeping it short and concise. There’s no room for exchanging pleasantries or talking about multiple ideas at once. As the name suggests, you deliver short-form messages.

SMS isn’t perfect – and there are situations where you’ll need a medium that’s more conducive to long-form communication – but it should be a staple in your workplace. If nothing else, it trains people to think succinctly.

Keep Your Team on Track

It’s time to say goodbye to confusion once and for all. Whether you have a small team or a growing business, better communication will provide a host of benefits. Try these techniques and document the results. It’s possible that you’ll hone in on a repeatable and scalable process.