People First HR Services

Poor communication a top work complaint

Colleen Coates

If you ever have felt that no one hears or sees you at work, you’re not alone. Poor communication within organizations could easily be the No. 1 complaint that is heard time and time again. You would think that knowing this is a key issue plaguing many organizations that someone would do something about it! Admittedly it can be tough to address something as important as communication when it is difficult to prove the organization’s return on investment. That is, if you invest time and even money into resolving the organization’s internal communication needs, what is the payback for the organization?

Effective internal communication plans can easily translate into solving one of our basic human needs, and that is the need for a sense of belonging. Quite frankly I would suggest it could solve other necessities that Abraham Maslow identified in his hierarchy of needs. For example, poor communication surrounding changes to one’s working conditions might lead a person to be uncertain about his or her ability to meet their basic physiological needs due to potential job loss. As we know, the theory is that a person can’t move up the hierarchy to reach self-actualization (to realize one’s full potential) if they can’t even pay the mortgage or put food on the table.

Organizations would be wise to listen to those employee-engagement surveys telling them that internal communication needs to be improved. Organizations that have this mastered are showing their employees that they matter. They are showing through their words and actions that their people matter, and people need to know that they matter.

Here are 12 important things that you can do, whether you are the employer, colleague, friend, spouse or someone who wants to show that they care:

  1. Begin and end your sentences with ‘YOU’. You amaze me. I understand you. I hear you. You are awesome.
  2. Acknowledge everyone. Start your morning by saying hello to everyone or acknowledging them in some fashion. Don’t work in the same location? Why not send a Good Morning email, instant message or even a tweet.
  3. Listen with interest. Listen with your ears and your heart. People notice the difference and it matters.
  4. Ask “mattering” questions. How can I make your day? What can I do to help you be successful? What do you need from me?
  5. Be present. How many times have you been speaking with someone and you can tell their body may be there but their brain is not present. One of the greatest gifts you can give is being present in body and mind.
  6. Encourage and reassure confidence. Encouragement gives people hope and inspiration. It shows you care.
  7. Deliver happiness. Do you work with a cranky, disheartening individual? These people suck the life out of everything. Going about your day with a glass-is-half-full attitude can brighten someone’s day and certainly makes the workplace more enjoyable.
  8. Talk about others. Stop talking about yourself and start focusing on what you have learned from others. Talking about what other people are doing, trying, learning and so on shows you are interested in and open to learning and growing.
  9. Offer hope. You have a choice every day — make the world a better place or make it worse. Your attitude and how you go about the day does matter, and it does make an impact on the world and other people. We all have the power to lift someone up or drag them down.
  10. Sweat the small stuff. Contrary to popular belief, we should take time out of our day to do the small things that matter. Put a note in your child’s lunchbox that says “I love you,” send an email to a friend you haven’t spoken to in awhile, buy a coffee for the person in line behind you, call your cousin who is going through a divorce, or send a smiley face text message to your spouse to tell them you are thinking of them.
  11. Tell people in your life that they matter. We all want to know that we matter to someone. Tell your co-workers how much you appreciate having them on your team; tell your leader that he’s one of the best boss you’ve ever had; tell your wife she’s beautiful and you love her; tell your staff that you appreciate the hard work they do every day. Is it gushy, mushy stuff? Maybe. But I’ve seen even the toughest critics smile and appreciate being told that they matter.
  12. Make the choice. You have the ability every day to make the choice to make someone’s day better. Inspire, believe, thank, offer encouragement and let people know how you feel about them and that they matter.

If people in your life can answer yes to these questions when talking about you, “Do you hear me? Do you see me? Do you care about me? Do I matter to you?” then you’ve mastered knowing how to ensure people know that you care.

“The measure of a life is not what that life accomplishes but rather the impact that life has on others.” — Jackie Robinson


Colleen Coates, CHRP, CCP, is a practice leader with People First HR Services Ltd. She can be contacted at



Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 20, 2013 H1