5 Things Leaders Do That Alienate Their Teams When you start communicating with your employees is when you'll stop losing sleep worrying they are disengaged.

By Heather R. Huhman

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Leaders are lacking some vital communication skills and employees are feeling disconnected as a result, according to a recent study conducted by Interact and Harris Poll. The study examined responses from 2,026 U.S. adults surveyed online in October 2014.

More than two-thirds of employees who work virtually, at least on occasion, said they want managers to communicate with them better to keep them engaged.

Leaders might think they're doing a great job keeping everyone in the loop and feeling a part of the team, but clearly, that's not the case.

Here are some common communication mistakes leaders make and how to fix them:

1. Not being open or transparent.

A staggering 81 percent of employees would rather join a company that values open communication than some of the other perks that generate buzz -- like free food and gym memberships, according to a survey by 15Five analyzing responses from 1,000 U.S. employees, published in March.

Create an environment where employees feel safe to communicate openly. Remind employees of the organization's core values and lead by example -- share thoughts openly more often. Create opportunities for the team to socialize regularly so everyone can get to know each other better.

Related: 4 Reasons You Need to Embrace Transparency in the Workplace

2. Relying solely on email.

The majority of companies rely on email to communicate, yet 30 percent of employees ignore emails, according to theEMPLOYEEapp's Mobile Trends In The Workplace survey published in May. Email is no longer the fastest, most efficient way to communicate.

Leverage new tech to improve communication with employees. Social tools and mobile apps could make a difference here, but they're underutilized in the workplace -- only 8 percent and 10 percent of employers use them, respectively.

Try an instant messaging app, or a new type of mobile communication app, like Voxer, for instance. The app's "push to talk" feature enables real-time voice messaging, like walkie talkies -- but this technology is far more sophisticated, saving and delivering messages via cloud storage and syncing across all devices.

3. Failing to build relationships with employees.

Employees' relationships with their immediate supervisor is increasingly a main driver of job satisfaction. Fifty-four percent of employees rate this factor "very important" to their satisfaction, according to research conducted by SHRM in July and August 2013.

Schedule time to meet with each employee regularly and get a "status" update about how work is going for them. Ask how they're doing outside of work, too, since personal factors often affect job performance and motivation. Employees who feel their supervisor cares for them personally, not just professionally, will feel more valued and engaged.

Related: The 5 Leadership Behaviors You Need to Boost Employee Engagement

4. Not encouraging feedback.

Only 15 percent of employees believe their feedback is "highly valued" by managers, 15Five's survey found. When employees don't feel like their feedback is valued, they won't see a point in saying anything.

Encourage employees to share thoughts and recommendations about organizational processes and procedures. Give them the tools and framework to empower them to do so, too. 15Five found 70 percent of employees would be more likely to speak up about how they feel if they had a web-based platform through which to share feedback with managers.

5. Waiting too long to address conflict.

Many times leaders delay dealing with conflict to avoid stirring up tension and maintain the appearance of harmony. But, this type of behavior only lets tension build. Suppressed negative emotions will fester creating a toxic environment of mistrust.

Address conflicts right away, but do so on neutral ground with an open mind. Be sensitive to the different behavioral triggers of employees. Engage in coaching and learning about employees regularly to understand what makes them tick, making conflict resolution more quick and painless next time.

Related: How Office Politics Can Tank Your Small Company

Wavy Line
Heather R. Huhman

Career and Workplace Expert; Founder and President, Come Recommended

Waldorf, Md.-based Heather R. Huhman is a career expert, experienced hiring manager and president of Come Recommended, the PR solution for job search and HR tech companies. She writes about issues impacting the modern workplace.

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