Bad Business Writing is no Laughing Matter
Poor communication in business is so common that it’s become a comic staple. Workplace sitcoms involve bumbling managers who hit “Reply All” on vague or inappropriate memos. We joke about software that’s so obtuse it’s nearly impossible to navigate and user documentation that’s laughably inadequate. It’s hilarious — when it’s make-believe.
But shoddy communication in the real life workplace is no joke. Stories like this one aren’t comedies: they’re horror stories. When the people who run an organization can’t clearly communicate with one another, customers, clients, or regulatory agencies, no one leaves happy.
Business communication, specifically in written form, is more frequent and integral to your company’s success than you might think. Consider these typical missives, along with the ways in which they most often go astray:
- Memos and internal communications — Using vague, confusing, inappropriate, or insensitive language
- External email — Failing to reflect the organization’s voice consistently, or leaving spelling errors or typos in the documents
- Website copy — Creating text or design that doesn’t take users’ needs and habits into account
- Instructions and user documentation — Failing to properly evaluate the audience and its needs before writing
- Statements of Procedure (SOPs) — Leaving out important steps and requirements
- Employment notices — Failing to clearly state employee requirements and job descriptions
The way we deal with communication is just as important. Telling employees that they need to “document everything” can backfire if you don’t give them clear directions and tools to complete that task.
According to the Houston Chronicle, poor communication can cause several problems within your organization.
- Efficiency can fall as employees must take the time to fill in the gaps in poorly communicated information or, worse yet, correct mistakes that they make because of those gaps.
- Morale can become poor as workers become frustrated and discouraged by an increasing inability to do their jobs quickly and effectively.
- Loss of business and internal innovation amid mishandling of important projects can leave customers and employees alike fed up and unwilling to move forward.
Fortunately, you can turn this type of situation around quickly by simply giving employees the skills they need to create concise, clear, effective communications.
Good writing and strong leadership are at the heart of excellent business communications. When management commits to clearing up a company’s communications procedures, whether by creating SOPs and writing standards, bringing in professionals to help create documentation, or providing writing training for employees, the entire organization benefits.
The rewards are numerous, according to the Houston Chronicle.
- Diversity can improve thanks to a reduction of language and cultural barriers that can be exacerbated by poor communication.
- Business can increase as customers are able to find what they need on websites, in user documentation, and so on.
- Morale and team-building can get a boost as employees feel calmer and more inspired by reduced frustration and clearer communication within and across teams.
Now ask: is it time to take a look at your business communications?