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Costly Conversations: How Lack of Communication Is Costing Organizations Thousands in Revenue


Mon Jan 24 2022

Costly Conversations: How Lack of Communication Is Costing Organizations Thousands in Revenue

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Stop me if this sounds familiar: in your organization, there’s an employee who is getting by with minimal effort. A supervisor is aware but doesn’t like confrontation and stays silent. Other employees must pick up the slack and begin to feel bitter, losing respect for the employee and the supervisor.

Or perhaps you’ve seen a coworker—maybe even a supervisor—who is disrespectful and rude. They think your political views are absurd and say things that are thoughtless at best. Others avoid interacting with them, even if that means tasks take longer or problems go unsolved.


Situations like these aren’t just annoyances: they’re the invisible line items you don’t see on an expense report that are silently sabotaging your bottom line.

In a recent survey by Crucial Learning, a company with courses in communication, performance, and leadership, respondents admitted that conversation failures in the workplace are both rampant and costly. In fact, 43 percent of respondents estimated they waste two weeks or more ruminating about an unresolved problem at work. And an astounding one in three employees admitted their inability to speak up in a crucial moment cost their organization at least $25,000.

In addition to astronomical price tags on conversation failures, people are resorting to silence in alarming moments. The top five times employees avoid crucial conversations include when:

  • Someone is not pulling their weight (68%).

  • Someone performs below expectations (66%).

  • Someone is disrespectful in the workplace (57%).

  • Proper processes or protocols aren’t followed (53%).

  • Confusion exists about who owns a decision (53%).

Instead of speaking up, we resort to a host of harmful, resource-sapping behaviors, including:

  • Complaining to others (77%)

  • Doing extra or unnecessary work (63%)

  • Ruminating about the problem (57%)

  • Getting angry (49%)

As a result, 43 percent of respondents say their silence has cost the organization more than $10,000, while 30 percent tabbed the amount at more than $25,000, and a troubling 19 percent admitted their reluctance cost at least $50,000!


Beyond the jaw-dropping dollar figures, the secondary costs are also alarming. Respondents report that these conversation failures had damaging effects to employee morale, relationships, and corporate culture, as well as project timelines and budgets.

As employee anxieties have grown, leading to the Great Resignation and extreme burnout, organizations must invest in their employees’ interpersonal skills to build strong relationships and secure bottom-line results. Don’t be resigned to silence. Instead, start training employees to voice their concerns quickly and effectively with these four tips:

  • Reverse your thinking. Most of us decide whether or not to speak up by considering the risks of doing so. Those who are best at crucial conversations don’t think first about the risks of speaking up; they think first about the risks of not speaking up.

  • Change your emotions. Our crucial conversations go poorly because we are irritated, angry, or disgusted. Others react to these emotions more than our words. So, before opening your mouth, open your mind. Try to see others as reasonable, rational, and decent human beings—a practice that softens strong emotions and ensures your ideas come across more agreeably.

  • Make others feel safe. Unskilled conversationalists believe certain topics are destined to make others defensive. Skilled conversationalists realize people don’t become defensive until they feel unsafe. Start a high-stakes conversation by assuring the other person of your positive intentions and your respect for them. When others feel respected and trust your motives, they feel safe, let their guard down, and begin to listen—even if the topic is unpleasant.

  • Invite dialogue. After you create an environment of safety, express your concerns, and then invite dialogue. Encourage the other person to disagree with you. Those who are best at crucial conversations don’t just come to make their point: they come to learn.

Remember: crucial conversations don’t have to become costly conversations. Hopefully these tips can give you more confidence to speak up, empower others to have crucial conversations, and improve your life and organization.

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