Shadow communication refers to unofficial, informal, non-company authorized communication channels in a workplace, often characterized by rumors, gossip, and speculation.
It can negatively impact productivity, morale, and overall workplace culture. Although gossip isn't completely unavoidable, shadow communication that demeans others needs to be curbed.
Combating shadow communication requires a proactive approach and a focus on fostering open and transparent communication. Here are some strategies to address shadow communication at your workplace:
Bridging the gap between the employee and the reporting manager
Employees are often cautious towards their manager, as they feel their interactions could directly impact their appraisals and promotions. To ease this tension, managers should create opportunities for employees to provide feedback, share ideas, and express concerns. This can be done through surveys, suggestion boxes, or regular feedback sessions. Legitimate concerns should be addressed promptly so that employees don't feel the need to indulge in shadow communication. Managers should be accommodative if their subordinates feel the working environment is unhealthy.
Using a business communication tool for office communication
Promote open and transparent communication through a dedicated business communication channel. Ensure all stakeholders are involved in official communication and no one is left in the dark. One of the standard protocols adopted by the Zoho Cliq team is directing all work-related discussions through channels so that no communication happens in silos. Guidelines are provided on what kind of information should be shared through official channels so that miscommunication is avoided. This in turn regulates communication and curbs negative conversations to a great extent. When employees see their leaders embracing transparent communication, they are more likely to follow suit.
Foster a positive work culture
Cultivate a positive and inclusive work environment where employees feel valued and respected. Encourage teamwork, collaboration, and mutual support. A positive work culture reduces the likelihood of shadow communication by promoting direct and constructive communication. Take breaks together as a team, participate in team trips, and unwind together at non-work related events. Recognize and celebrate individual and team accomplishments. This helps foster a positive work environment and reduces the need for shadow communication, as employees feel appreciated and acknowledged.
Kudos, the peer-peer recognition feature in Zoho Connect, enables employees to encourage one another with badges. Celebrate happy moments together and lend a shoulder when someone goes through a period of grief. In other words, never leave anyone feeling left alone.
Combat conflicts and don't run away from them
Conflicts and disagreements can fuel shadow communication. Disagreements are natural when two or more people work together. Instead of running away from conflicts, address them promptly. Encourage employees to address conflicts directly and constructively. Leaders should provide conflict resolution strategies and ensure that disputes are resolved in a fair and timely manner. In cases where conflicts cannot be amicably addressed, a channel for employees to report concerns or issues should exist. Assurance should be given to employees that their concerns will be taken seriously and addressed appropriately.
Remember that combatting shadow communication requires consistent effort and ongoing commitment. By promoting transparency, addressing conflicts, and fostering a positive work culture, you can create an environment where open communication thrives, and shadow communication is minimized.