Management Articles


The real cost of poor communication

By: Helen Wilkie

Helen Wilkie is a professional speaker, consultant and author specializing in PROFITABLE APPLIED COMMUNICATION. She is the author of "Message Received and Understood!", "The Hidden Profit Center" and other books, booklets, CDs and tapes. For information on Helen's services and learning tools, reach her at 416-966-5023 or

Do you know how much money poor communication cost your organization in the past twelve months? You won’t find the answer in the financial statements or any year-end departmental reports. Why? Because, the dollar cost has never been truly recognized.

Contrary to popular belief, communication is not some warm and fuzzy “nice to have”. Communication is nothing less than the lifeblood of your organization. If blood doesn’t circulate at just the right pressure and speed to all parts and extremities of the body, that body will sicken and eventually die. Similarly, if communication doesn’t flow freely throughout an organization, that body too will sicken and eventually die.

By communication, I don’t mean just vision and mission statements, news releases or newsletters, annual reports or videotaped messages to the troops. These are all important and have their place, but they form just a fraction of the communication—and miscommunication—that takes place every day in the workplace.

Nothing happens without communication. It takes interaction between people to create a product. It takes collaboration to approach a new market. It takes teamwork to implement a strategy. It takes exchange of written and spoken words to oil and run the machinery of business. And if that machinery breaks down—as it often does—it costs a great deal of money.

What are the expensive results of communication breakdown? Here are some examples: long, boring, unproductive meetings that reach no conclusion and serve no purpose; sales presentations that show no concern for, or understanding of, the client’s needs; badly written e-mail messages that cause misunderstandings, ill will and wasted time; employee alienation caused by managers who don’t listen; lack of understanding between people of different age groups and between male and female employees.

Measuring productivity on the shop floor is relatively easy, but administrative productivity costs are more difficult to gauge. An audit to quantify the costs of poor applied communication is a good first step that can lead to huge savings.

Poor communication costs both commercial and non-profit organizations millions of dollars every single day. These costs are hidden, because there isn’t a line on the balance sheet to account for poor communication. Nothing shows up in the accounts saying, “lost productivity due to miserable meetings” or “missed business opportunity through sad selling skills”. The cost is nonetheless real. Find a way to take just a portion of that money back, and you’ve found The Hidden Profit Center.

© copyright 2004, Helen Wilkie

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