Do you have a death wish for your department at work? Do you want to see your team fail in meeting the group's latest challenge? If so, just stifle communication. It's really easy to do. In fact, you may already be doing it unawares.
Here are some tried and true techniques for stifling communication in the workplace. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but merely a highlighting of often unnoticed techniques you should be aware of. Take note, because the most deft of saboteurs in the workplace are. You may also find that you yourself are unknowingly undermining the effectiveness of your team. Take this opportunity to make a quick assessment. Do you, or someone at work...
Avoid Direct Communication
Talk over people's heads
Forget the Human Element
Glorifying hierarchy, by necessity devalues involvement at all levels. When a person or a management team is fixated on their authority and stature, they neglect others. They close the door on important ideas and solutions that they themselves will not come up with. They ignore unique perspectives. In short, it's an ego trip.
Whether intentional or not, when egos get in the way, teams suffer due to a lack of communication. When the opinion of one person or a few, always trumps that offered by anyone else, your team is headed down a dead-end road. People clam up and quit talking. This often happens without the offending party even realizing it.
One way to avoid this is to foster a more lateral chain of command. Within this structure you will still have key people making executive decisions, yet there is more involvement across ranks. This way, employees of different positions and seniority levels are encouraged to be involved and be heard.
Avoiding Direct Communication
For clarification purposes I'll start by saying that a phone conversation, while less intimate than a face-to-face, qualifies as direct communication. Emails, text messages, tweets, etc. typically don't.
I'm not for one minute implying that the above don't have their place in the modern workplace, because they certainly do. However, the simple fact is that nothing can replace the communication value of a verbal exchange. The other forms of messaging are second rate when compared. Sure, there are many work environments which rely heavily on modern electronic communication, but you'd have a hard time convincing any expert that adding an old-fashioned conversation won't help to convey your message.
Neglecting To Follow Up
If a challenge is something worthy of pursuing, then it is a challenge worth conquering. This is rarely possible without following up. A fantastic brainstorming session which ends with a solid plan of action, can turn out to be useless without following up to ensure that milestones are met. Just because a bunch of people have a great idea about how to accomplish something, doesn't mean it's going to happen automatically.
Along with dates and times for certain action steps to be taken, there should also be follow-ups scheduled to determine the outcome of each step. Without this type of effort you're likely to have certain team members putting the proverbial "cart before the horse". If step "A" in your action plan didn't effect what the team expected it to, then everyone needs to know that. It could seriously affect what other members are presently working on to solve the same problem. Their role or "step" in the action plan may assume that steps taken by other members resulted in successful outcomes.
Talking Over People's Heads
I sometimes think that this point is one that goes without saying. From personal experience, however, I know that this is a serious problem in a lot of different work environments. Some folks like to talk over people's heads, while others do it unintentionally. Regardless, the end result is always the same.
Someone ends up feeling stupid and insignificant, or they feel like they are being talked down to by someone who considers themselves aloof. Either way, they are left feeling discouraged about being a significant contributor at work. This does nothing to encourage open communication.
Instead, we should always go out of our way to simplify things in a friendly manner when at all possible. I don't mean talk to folks like they're little kids. Condescension will accomplish nothing good. Just keep it simple, and talk lingo only with those who you're sure understand the language.
Forgetting The Human Element
Whatever it is that we are presently trying to accomplish - it has to do with pleasing humans. Even if we are trying to "save the whales", we are doing it to appease ourselves. While our efforts may benefit the whales, they are not the ones who get any intellectual satisfaction out of it.
Every challenge at our workplace is being undertaken by humans to satisfy humans. That's the nitty gritty of it. We need to remember that people like to be treated like people. A little dignity goes a long way in accomplishing a lot of great things. Employee numbers, titles, and responsibilities are necessary, but without embracing the human element, they can be awfully humiliating.
Make sure to pause for a moment and consider the other person. All of the skill and expertise of both of you combined won't solve a first-grade problem, if you can't see each other as more than a means to an end. You are more than merely tools - you are human.
As mentioned before, this is not an exhaustive list. I'm just scratching the surface here. I'm sure you have some behaviors that you'd like to add to my list. Also, I'm sure that some of these points are painfully obvious to some reading this.
Hopefully, for those who are already mindful of these things, this has served as a useful refresher. It never hurts to revisit things you haven't actively pondered in a while.
Robert D Smith is a self-proclaimed - http://www.industriouscommunicator.com Industrial Communications Specialist who is passionate about improving all forms of positive communication in the workplace.