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Every Team Has Communication Problems And What Does That Mean?

We-have-communication-problemsTeam Building activities are often set up to jazz up the team or fill up space in an otherwise busy retreat agenda. One common goal of team building activities is to solve a problem.

The most common problem expressed by managers and team leaders is

We have communication problems.

That complaint always baffles me and I can count up to about 443 times that I’ve heard this. It’s such a broad and general problem statement that begs for someone to ask many follow up questions in order to drill down to the real issues.

Stating that there is a communication problem is an incomplete communication in itself. More specific information must be revealed. When talking to people about their relationships, it’s not unusual for me to hear that they have “communication problems.”

Any reputable team building consultant must understand exactly what the problems are. I suppose it’s true in marriage counseling. If a counselor asks her client to describe the communication problem, the wife may say, “Henry never talks to my mother when she comes over.” Where would you start on that one?

Back to the team. Following are some of the complaints that I uncover after drilling down past the words “communication problems.” See if you and your team can relate to any of these symptoms.

  • When I send out an email to my team, nobody responds in a timely manner.
  • Every time I talk to John, he doesn’t do what he told me he’d do and I have to call him again.
  • Every time I walk by Sue’s desk, she’s talking to her kid and not doing her work.
  • I’ve worked so hard but now my boss says that I’m not contributing to the company vision.
  • When we have a team meeting, the same people take over and the others clam up.
  • I left him a voicemail and he didn’t have the courtesy to call me back.
  • I can tell you exactly what to expect from each person on my team. I know who I can count on and who I can’t.
  • The directions were crystal clear but he went off in another direction anyway.
  • I can only understand half of what she says.
  • He always looks so angry and bothered that I only talk to him when I have to.

The list can go on and on yet all these issues roll up under “communication problems.” The approach to finding better ways of communicating would be different for each of the above symptoms.

Next time you find yourself saying, “we have communication problems”, I hope you hear my voice in your ear telling you to drill down and uncover in more specific terms what’s going on. What disappoints or irritates you? What are the symptoms that indicate there is a problem? Only then, can you find a path to harmonizing the communication issues.


Darcie Davis is president of Huddle Enterprises, which includes HuddleSessions.com and GamesandTeamBuilding.com. She creates innovative ways to get people connected to find cross-inspiration or to resolve problems.

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