How Communication Can Cause Conflict

Wordcount: 535       Time to read: ~3 minutes

According to George Bernard Shaw, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

As businesses mature, the need to come up with new products, services, and specialized skills decreases. At the same time, growth demands greater capacity. Because of this, when organizations grow, primarily, but not exclusively in terms of staff, the more important communication becomes.

When organizations increase their staff for added capacity rather than to add specific skills or capabilities, the harder it is for the new staff to see how their role adds value. The uncertainty leads to difficulty understanding how their efforts integrate into the rest of what the company is doing and how management expects them to contribute to the overarching mission of the company.

This lack of awareness covers a broad swath of areas including, but not limited to, how their performance will be measured.

Adding to the impact of communication is the need for verification that the message was received and interpreted as intended. In other words, your message may have been heard, and you may think you’ve been understood. Did your message instill the understanding you wanted the recipients to grasp? That’s where the rubber meets the road. That’s why formality becomes ever so important as the importance of communication increases.

Why does communication grow in importance and impact? Because as the organization grows, primarily but not exclusively in terms of number of employees, the number of responsibilities, details, tasks, important items, etc. all increase in volume and frequency. It becomes harder and harder for people to hold all of them.

Complicating matters further, prioritizing becomes more difficult and complex as the need to serve competing demands often arises causing frustration, doubt, and inaction.

How to resolve the problem? There are many short-cut bad ways and one good way that requires some thoughtful planning and preparation.

Two Counter-Productive Ways

  • Micro-manage. “Do what I tell you to do, nothing more. If anything changes, tell me before you do anything.” This is rarely effective. Managers should manage, not do.
  • Fail to manage. Give staff their roles and responsibilities and let them go. This too is rarely effective. Managers should not ignore their managerial responsibilities for the sake of their own operational demands.

One Productive Way

Provide an understanding of the value and importance of each member of a collective group makes that group stronger and better, and how the efforts of that group, i.e., each member of the group, contribute to the customer experience and delivering on what each customer is paying for.

People naturally want to do things rather than sit around and do nothing. They also want to be recognized for their work. Helping people understand why their work is important is the first step to creating that sense of value and contribution. Recognizing them in the appropriate manner for a job well done is how you reinforce the behavior you want.

This awareness of value and pride in their work needs to be top of mind for everyone while they’re doing their work and fulfilling their responsibilities. Ensuring the message Is delivered, received, and understood means successful communication is a non-optional mandate if success is going to be achieved and sustained.

Sometimes having someone to talk to, to validate perceptions, ideas, and the efficacy of possible solutions to problems can be a magic mirror for clarity. I’ve been facilitating critical thinking conversations with executives over the past year doing this very thing. Everyone, including me, has found these to be enlightening, enjoyable, and useful for decision-making insight. Some call it masterminding, I call it change mentoring.

If you’re interested in a no-fee 43-minute change mentoring chat, email me at Include change mentoring in your subject line for a faster response.

Another helpful resource can be found in one of my Sacramento Business Journal columns titled Executives should know when to seek outside help[1] from May 2006, giving advice on where to seek input when experience and knowledge are limited.

You’ll find more on change in Mandelblog, the information source leaders depend on. For more on the Index, or to schedule a survey for your company, email

[1] Mandelberg, Larry. “Executives should know when to seek outside help,” News – Got Growth, Sacramento Business Journal, 18 May 2006,


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