4 Signs Of Bad Workplace Communication


If you’ve ever seen small children place their hands over their ears while shrieking loudly, you’ll know what bad communication looks like.

While the symptoms become more subtle with time, bad communication becomes a bigger issue when you’re on the job, particularly if you’re in an entry level job or internship where your position is precarious.

Here are four signs you’re dealing with a bad communicator and some tips you can use to try and turn things around:

Vague instructions

“Just get it done.”

While it’s not always negative, this phrase is especially popular with bad communicators. The truth is, they really do care how a task gets done, they just don’t care to explain it to you.

When you don’t have a clear understanding of the desired outcome, timeframe or even the specific nature of a task you’ve been given, it’s pretty unlikely that you’ll do a good job.

“There are 17 things you need to keep in mind about this project.”

On the opposite end of the spectrum, a bad communicator will sometimes give you a surplus of unimportant information, obscuring the message you’re supposed to receive.

TalentEgg Tip: Get clarification by asking specific questions that indicate how you plan on completing a task. Try and get instructions in writing. Send (infrequent) progress reports by email, so you have a paper trail in the event of miscommunication.

One-way communication

“I don’t care (what you think).”

A one-way communicator doesn’t listen to feedback and will brush attempts to communicate aside. One-way communication is a lot like a conga line, where you blindly follow the leader and hope they know where they’re headed.

“Don’t lie to me.”

Since a one-way communicator assumes their take on everything is right, any time there’s a mistake or setback you won’t be able to tell your side of the story—and your job might be on the line.

TalentEgg Tip: Gauge the situation and tailor your response accordingly. If the discussion is over a minor issue, you may not be able to get your side of the story across. If there’s more at stake, stand your ground, restate your case and keep calm.

Negative feedback, or no feedback

“I didn’t like (everything)…”

Someone who doesn’t value or understand communication will rarely appreciate the importance of mentioning what you got right. Expect to hear a catalogue of shortcomings.


When the absence of feedback brings you relief (at having avoided another lecture), you’ll have to leave your hope of feeling validated at home.

TalentEgg Tip: Ultimately, you may have to make do with less. If you’re concerned about the quality of your work, a polite request for some positive talking points may help somewhat. Otherwise, look to coworkers who are familiar with your work for some sense of the status quo.

Teamwork doesn’t work

“I’m not going to help you with that.”

Bad communication can also impact your team dynamic. Your co-workers will be unwilling to look beyond their own tasks if your employer might immediately assume they’re slacking off.

TalentEgg Tip: Ask as little as possible. Assure others that you aren’t trying to pass your work off. Offer to help with tasks that consume an equal amount of time or resources. Reiterate the importance of the task you’re doing from a big picture perspective.

You can’t make anyone communicate differently, but this advice will give you a few strategies to fall back on when you feel like you’re talking to a brick wall.

About the author

Elias Da Silva-Powell is a Content, Marketing and Community Specialist at TalentEgg, as well as a two-time graduate of Queen's University. An avid bow-titan, he has been trying to bring whimsical neck wear back into the mainstream since 2008. He's around on Twitter: @EDSPowell and you can check out his profile on LinkedIn, and even G+.