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The Behaviors that Destroy Communication in Workplace (and How to Avoid Them)

The Behaviors that Destroy Communication in Workplace (and How to Avoid Them)

I’m going to kick this article off by giving you examples of two kinds of people: these are generalizations of course, but the idea here is for you to get a clear picture in your head of these people and see how that makes you feel. Who knows—maybe you’ll see yourself in one of these examples, as self-reflection often comes in unexpected places, and realize that there are a few things you could work on. Then again, let’s not get too lofty.

The Worst Guy 1:

Heather storms into your office (or cubicle or what have you), and says “Please tell me you’re ready for the meeting this afternoon. I hope you are, because I haven’t had time to get any of the work done. I’ve been so slammed with this extra project that Jack gave me, you know Jack right, the head of marketing? Well, he gave me this project to work on and I just haven’t had time to prepare for this meeting, so you’d better be on the ball because we don’t want to look stupid do we? Anyways, it’s not like you’ve been busy have you, I mean, what do you make thirty two a year…?”

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As you can imagine, it goes on for a bit longer, and you don’t manage to get maybe one or two words in, if you’re lucky. Heather, in this example, is far too aggressive. She barges in and starts yapping without any regard to what you may have been working on or what you may have been doing. Not only that, she is completely unprepared for a meeting and expects you to carry her. To add icing to the aggressive/annoying/obnoxious cake that she has brought into your office, she says that the reason that she isn’t prepared is because she was given this extra project and, in a way, is implying that she is special for having been chosen to do it.

Basically everything about this approach to communicating in the workplace is wrong.

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The Worst Guy 2:

You’re at the machine in the copy room, making sure there are enough flyers advertising the softball team to go around (keep in mind that these are just examples and it doesn’t matter whether there is a softball team, or if you work in a real office, at all). Gary walks in and stands behind you. He hasn’t announced himself yet, or tapped you on the shoulder, but you know he’s there. You also know that he’s the shy sort and likely won’t announce himself, so you turn around. “Heya, Gary” you say. “Oh. Hey, you” he responds. “So. I know that we have the end of quarter analysis coming up and that we’re all going to be busy, but, I don’t know, do you think that you could hurry up with that spreadsheet? I mean, you don’t have to. I guess. I could do it. It’s only, you know, I have this vacation coming up and, well, I did kind of want to take it before the next quarter. I guess I don’t have to, go on vacation I mean, it’s just that…”

This isn’t as bad as Heather, for sure, but nearly. Gary, in this case, is much too passive. In fact, he’s well beyond passive and bordering on milquetoast. For those of you who don’t know what a milquetoast is, it’s the perfect way to describe people like Gary: wishy-washy pushovers who don’t seem to be able to stand up for themselves, but also can’t help but play the victim.

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Again, the examples were drastic, but the point was to get the type across. When dealing with office relationships you can’t come off as too aggressive (it never pays to be on everyone’s “people to kill” list), and passive doesn’t work either because you’ll never get the respect that you deserve.

There is a fragile balance in the workplace where communication is concerned, especially at modern shared workspaces where you may not be speaking to someone in the same company.

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Here are some short-but-helpful tips to keep in mind when it comes to coworker communication:

  1. Get to know your coworkers—taking the time to befriend the people you work with is time well spent, believe me. It’s always nice to have someone on your side, and a friendly work environment is more productive.
  2. Look for the positive—everyone has faults, but it’s often the case that someone’s faults can become positive attributes, when focused through the right lens.
  3. Goals are the key to a successful business relationship—this goes for clients as well as coworkers. If you find yourself having difficulty communicating with someone, approach them and try to find a common goal you can both work towards. You’ll be surprised how quickly the differences between you fade.
  4. Stand up for yourself—there always comes a point, unfortunately, when looking for positive traits, and commons goals just doesn’t work. It’s then that you have to stand up for yourself. Don’t submit to the Heathers of the world who expect you to do their work for them.
  5. 5. Keep the dialogue open—this goes for everyone. Whether you are having a phenomenal time with Heather, or are about to nudge Gary out of an open window, the lines of communication must be open; between you, your coworkers, and your boss. This is easier said than done, I know, but well worth the effort in the end.

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Published on January 7, 2021

How To Train Yourself When You Lack Attention To Details

How To Train Yourself When You Lack Attention To Details

Some people see the trees for the forest, and some see only the forest, meaning they lack strong attention to detail. But even if you’re one of the people who take a macro rather than a micro view, true professionalism requires balancing both.

If focusing on the fine points is not your forte, you will benefit from training yourself to pay attention to details. You will profit by saving yourself time, effort, money, and credibility.

Why Training Yourself in Attention to Details Pays Off

You add value to your organization when you make the effort to ensure that you performed your work thoroughly and effectively. This is why job postings often list “attention to details” among the required skills.

When you present your supervisor or client with well-completed, high-quality work the first time, it maximizes your value and minimizes wasted time. Detail-oriented people are also more adept at catching mistakes that could lead to costly blunders.

Moreover, attention to detail is an indicator of possessing other in-demand employee qualities, such as organization, thoroughness, and focus. In some professions, such as accounting, engineering, medical research, and more, you can only excel if you have trained yourself to pay attention to details.

In other professions, possessing strong attention to detail is the very quality that will get you promoted to a position where you will be asked to consider the big picture.

Finally, if you are the “go-to” details person, everyone else on the team can relax a bit. They know the project is in good hands and will likely throw you more projects as a reward. This will ultimately lead to your advancement.

3 Important Aspects of Becoming More Detail-Oriented

Here are the 3 important things you need to learn if you want to remedy your lack of attention to detail:

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  1. Respect deadlines
  2. Understand the work-flow plan
  3. Build in time to mess up

1. Respect Deadlines

Deadlines lend all projects a finish line. One smart idea is to take the given deadline and work backward from it, calculating when your piece of the project is due. Then, if you stick to the proscribed schedule for completing the mini-projects that you have, you will never miss a deadline.

One important note on this: It is smarter to stick to the deadline and turn in work that merits a “B+” than to blow the deadline with “A” work. Chances are, through revision and suggested changes from others on the team, you can bring up your B+ work to an A later. But if you disregard deadlines, you will lose the respect of your boss and fellow teammates.

2. Understand the Work-Flow Plan

Your team is developing work in conjunction with other teams who have projects and deadlines of their own. When you grasp the whole work-flow plan, you may be able to either add insight to the greater project or to your own smaller piece of it that others at the firm will consider valuable.

3. Build in Time to Mess Up

You can expect that “what can go wrong will go wrong.” Don’t overpromise on deadlines. Something likely will mess up, but when it does if you built in the time to fix it, those around you won’t freak out.

Chances are, you already give your attention to several details. Take heart. You can do this! You can overcome your lack of attention to detail and become more detail-oriented.

For starters, consider this: Most people take the time and put in extra effort into the activities or undertakings that matter to them most. Training yourself to become more detail-oriented can mean adopting a similar pattern of behavior.

Apply the same attention you give to your appearance. Are you a meticulous dresser? Do you pay attention to how you pair patterns and colors, and how you accessorize a particular outfit?

This is the same system to use when you lack attention to detail with your work. Give every item careful consideration so that each one contributes to the perfectly pieced-together whole.

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Assemble the ingredients the way you do when you cook. Cooking and baking from scratch require close attention to details as you measure and add each ingredient in sequence, and you time everything so that the meal comes together at the same time.

Similarly, your work product requires you to gauge whether all the ingredients have been added and that your final product is delivered on time.

Organize your business network like you do your social contacts. If you follow a broad base of friends and acquaintances on social media, you can apply similar skills to stay up-to-date on details associated with business acquaintances.

When you meet somebody who could be influential to your career or a resource for improving your skills, follow that person on social media. Respond to their posts to keep the lines of communication flowing.

12 Tips to Help You if You Lack Attention to Detail

Teaching yourself to take note of important details involves sharpening your perceptions and thinking ahead. The following tips will help you adopt these practices. Master these habits when training yourself to become detail-oriented.

1. Learn to Listen Well

You will pick up relevant information and needed nuance when you apply the skills of active listening. In conversations, train yourself to make eye contact, give your undivided attention to the speaker, and ask pertinent follow-up questions.

Training yourself to pay better attention to details in conversations includes learning to fully concentrate on what others have to say. If you find it hard, there’s no harm in taking notes on what they say.

2. Pay Attention to Social Cues

Make a point of noticing body language and facial expressions that provide insights into how others perceive a situation. Social cues offer details that give you an understanding of how words and actions impact others. The infamous character Michael Scott of the television show “The Office” epitomizes the consequences of not paying attention to others’ body language.[1]

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3. Follow Rules

Rules and protocols usually come about from lessons learned and are put in place to avoid further mishaps—whether from a safety or efficiency standpoint. If you’re given step-by-step procedures to follow, check them off as you go. Also, return to the rules at the project’s end just to make sure you adhered to them all.

4. Take Notes

Note-taking is a way to boost your retention and gives you something to refer back to when you need to keep track of pertinent details. You will also heighten your focus as you listen for relevant information. Review your notes shortly after the meeting or conversation and highlight the content that you intend to apply.

5. Prioritize What Needs Your Attention Now

When you have a full slate of work that demands your attention, take a few moments to sort assignments from most to least urgent. Keep a calendar, spreadsheet, or project planning software up-to-date with schedules and deadlines to help you stay organized.

As you tackle each urgent assignment, give it your full attention so no details are missed. Give yourself ample time—especially if you tend to be someone who waits until the last minute—as rushing can make you overlook important details.

6. Have a Detail-Oriented Assistant Check Your Work

If you lack attention to detail, then it makes sense to seek help from someone detail-oriented. If you have this option, take advantage of it. Two sets of eyes are better than one. Just be sure to credit your assistant for their help once the project is completed.

7. Learn the Rules of Writing Well

English is a difficult language, and grammar, punctuation, and spelling can all sabotage you unless you pay attention to detail. When in doubt, look it up. Free to use website services such as Grammarly can help.

8. Proofread Before You Hit Send

Nothing is perfect in its first draft. If you lack attention to detail, then put in the extra effort before submitting things. Before you send off any written work, check carefully not only for misspellings and incomplete sentences but also for improper tone, inappropriate colloquialisms, and inconsistent formatting. When your written communications are error-free, they will have their intended impact.

9. Minimize Distractions

It is impossible to stay focused when colleagues carry on conversations nearby or your mobile notifications ding you throughout the day. Do your best to limit distractions.

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If you are working where there is a lot of noise or side activity, try wearing noise-canceling headphones or seeking out a quiet corner. Disable your notifications when you need to focus, and resolve to only check them after you have completed your assignment.

10. Take Breaks

It may sound counter-intuitive to stop and take a walk, but it’s necessary. Walk away from the screen. Moving from one task to the next across the span of your workday is a recipe for brain fatigue. Give your brain a recess time when you come to a natural stopping place or after you complete one project and before you start the next. These short pauses are necessary for sorting through all the details needed for coming up with successful solutions.

11. Make Time for Reflection

At the end of a workday, take a few minutes to go over the day’s events in your mind. What was said or relayed in conversations? What is the status of the projects you worked on? What else occurred that you should pay attention to? Could there have been any details you might have missed that you should address tomorrow?

12. Keep a Detailed To-Do List

This simple organizational tool is your best ally for getting your work done on time and for paying attention to the details. If you are pressed for time (and who isn’t?), write your list to coordinate with dayparts.

Allot a certain number of hours to complete each task, do it, and then check it off. Nothing feels more rewarding than completing all the tasks on your list. But if you can’t finish them, then carry them over to the following day.

Final Thoughts

Details may seem small, but they can become a lot larger when they are overlooked. If you know you lack attention to detail, commit to training yourself to embrace the many facets that can help you consistently excel in the tasks you set out to accomplish.

When you begin to catch your mistakes in advance or apply the tidbits of information you gathered from paying close attention, you will know that you have trained yourself in the fundamentals of becoming detail-oriented. After that, you should start hearing the phrase “Great job!” more often.

More Tips on Boosting Your Attention to Detail

Featured photo credit: Cristina Gottardi via unsplash.com

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