Communication Missteps and How to Avoid Them


You are highly motivated and willing to go the extra mile at work. If this is the type of employee you are, good for you! But all of your efforts could go out the window with just one communication misstep. Knowledge is the fastest road to empowerment, so become familiar with the most common communication missteps and the ways you can avoid them!

1.  Becoming Resentful You’re a hard worker by nature. You know what it means to do a job a right, and you aren’t going to do it any other way but thoroughly. You come in early, and you leave late. You go the extra mile on every project. But you also notice everyone who doesn’t work as hard as you work. You notice who leaves a few minutes early and who takes extra lunch breaks. You begin to hear yourself saying things like, “Why am I the only one working around here?” Those kinds of comments will draw attention not to your efforts but to your resentment.

Remember, you are working the way you believe is right, the way you want to do it. So don’t focus on those who aren’t working the way you strive to; that will only distract you. Instead, direct your attention toward those who are positive role models and mentors for you.

2.  Mishandling Disappointment If you’re a motivated employee, it’s likely that you are also a perfectionist. For a perfectionist, failure can be very disappointing, but failure and success often go hand in hand.

Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.”—Robert F. Kennedy

Learning to handle disappointment with grace is critical. If failure or setbacks come your way, and they will, avoid blaming or tantrums. Instead, take responsibility where appropriate and lead the discussion about what was learned and what can be improved upon next time.

3.  Failing to Self-Promote There are times when self-promotion is important and appropriate. Those in leadership positions can be overwhelmed or so far removed from who is doing the actual work that they have no idea who is doing what.

This is also a place where you must be careful. If you have done a task well and enjoyed it but it seems to be unnoticed, mention it but only in a low key way, when the time is right. “Just want to let you know that I really enjoyed working on the blank project. I think it was a great use of my strengths, and I’d like to do more of this kind of work.”

4.  Proving Yourself To Soon You’ve wanted to get on an important team, and finally, you’ve been invited. Congratulations! Now you can’t wait to be sure everyone understands what you can bring to the team. At your first meeting you share your insights, tell them what they could be doing differently, and you let them know all about your experience and knowledge. In other words, you let them know they’ve invited the person with all the answers!

As a young professional who wanted to get ahead, I also let people know I had all the answers. Fortunately, I had a great mentor who took me aside and told me, “Beth. We all know your value. But if you swing at every pitch, your batting average goes way down. Wait for your ball. And then hit it out of the ballpark.”

I’m not a big sports fan, but I sure knew what he was telling me. I went into every meeting, committee, team, and project wanting to prove my value, to be noticed. His story was one of the most valuable bits of advice I received. I began to notice that the people who were most respected in teams and meetings were the ones who listened, were curious, asked questions, and when they had something of value to add, casually interjected. I learned to become that person, and I became the valued and sought-after team member.

5. Ignoring Feedback Most organizations still rely on yearly formal performance evaluations to give employees feedback. In my opinion, this system is highly ineffective and creates stress for both the person being evaluated and for the evaluator. But the good news is that feedback is available all around you. All you have to do is listen for it, watch for it, and ask for it.

Identify one or two colleagues whom you respect and whom you believe will be honest and objective. Ask them if they would be willing to give you feedback on your strengths, your communication, areas you might be able to improve on, and other topics of relevance.

Check in with your supervisor proactively. If you don’t know where to begin, simply go with, “I’m really interested in doing well here, so I’d like some feedback. Is there an area of my performance I could improve upon to be better in my role?”

If you’ve already misstepped, it isn’t too late to turn the tide. Simply take responsibility in a dialogue with your supervisor and then set goals to become more aware and intentional with your communication!

Beth Wonson offers one-to-one coaching for those who seeking leadership positions or those who may be in a leadership position and are struggling. Contact Beth today to learn more.