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Trevor E. S. Smith | The Big C

Published:Sunday | December 8, 2019 | 12:00 AM
Trevor Smith

Not that one.

However, this one is even more widespread and potentially harmful in another sense.

Issues surrounding communication is a constant negative response in the results of the employee satisfaction surveys that we undertake for clients.

That Big C is often disruptive and an impediment to performance, harmony and employee engagement.

The Big C challenges are not limited to the workplace. Dysfunctional communication causes friction in homes, service clubs, church, school and in sports activities.

“I was not told!”

That represents the bulk of the frustrations that are experienced when communication is dysfunctional.

Important information fails to get to impacted parties. That leads to annoyance and quite often to performance glitches and lost opportunities.

One reason for this type of communication misstep is the absence of structured management of the information dissemination process. Reliance on memory or crafting new lists of persons to be informed on the fly is a recipe for having the Big C rear its head.

“I’m just seeing it.”

Really! Look at the date!

Communication challenges also arise at the receiver end.

Critical mail lies dormant in Inboxes while recipients spend time keeping up to date with their social media contacts.

Again, structure and systems help.Establish routines that ensure that you access your mail on a timely basis. Also, visit your spam filter at regular intervals.

You should also be proactive with respect to communication. Ask about information that you need or that you should have received. Enquire whether there is something that you should know.

“I saw it but ... .”

A book could be written about what follows that ‘but’.

“I was going to come back to it, but something came up and ... .”

“I wasn’t clear and...”

“I thought X was dealing with it.”

“I thought the matter was settled and ... .”

In unexpressed thought, the truth: “I just could not be bothered and now I will give you any excuse that works.”

Communication is the glue that holds teams together.

It is by communicating and sharing information about themselves that the critical factor of trust is built.

Without communication, there is no trust. Without trust, there is no team spirit. Without team spirit, sustained high performance is unattainable.


Do your team members take as much care to ensure that their service to you meets your satisfaction as they would for an external customer?

Examples like spreadsheet columns that have no totals are indicative of a lack of caring for your needs.

There is also wasted effort. A classic case is one in which one member refines and repackages raw data before sending to another, who has to unpack the raw data to perform their task.

Meaningful communication can avoid these obstacles to high performance.

Spending time in a toxic environment saps energy and impacts performance.

A lot of toxicity originates from simple miscommunication. However, left unattended communication glitches may grow into distrust, dislike and disruptive behaviour.

At the root of a lot of miscommunication are differences in behavioural preferences which act as a barrier to effective communication in the absence of training and coaching.

Dinah’s direct style of communication is unsettling for Stan and he pulls back from interacting with her. Dinah notices Stan’s behaviour and places a negative label on it. Stan is now marked for ‘least favoured’ treatment.

Soon Dinah’s inner circle also distances themselves from Stan and his posse.

This can quickly deteriorate into a factual, real-life situation in which team members barely communicate. In one amazing situation, a team member waits until her colleague leaves her desk to place a memorandum on it. She could not risk having to come face to face with her team member.

How ridiculous is that? What kind of team spirit can survive in that environment?

What is your guess as to the level of employee engagement in that team?

Is the team rallying and supporting each other to achieve stretch goals?

What about resilience? Are they likely to be able to hunker down when things go wrong and address the challenge?

Is there likely to be more finger-pointing than warm embraces and shoulders to lean on?

The Big C affects us in many spheres and ways. It spreads rapidly and quickly threaten the entire organisation. Poor communication lays the foundation for mistrust, low productivity and dissatisfaction.


Ensure that your 2020 goals are achieved. Talk to us about how we can move your team to the next level.

- Trevor E. S. Smith of the Success with People Academy. We guide the development of high-performance teams. We are interpersonal relations, group dynamics and performance-enhancement specialists. We provide learning and productivity-enhancement technology solutions. We offer behavioural assessments from Extended DISC on the revolutionary FinxS Platform and e-Competency Frameworks in our SPIKE solution. Email: