3 Remote Communication Breakdowns That Lead to Unhappy Teams (and How to Avoid Them)

We’ve all been in situations where we give someone feedback or say something just a little too quickly, and it sparks a defensive reaction. Maybe there’s some tension around being left out of key meetings or stressful call-outs in group chats.

While most of us are well-versed in these communication breakdowns, there are a few key ways we can avoid stepping on toes and triggering defensiveness!

Here are 3 common situations that caused miscommunications — as told by real examples from Bunch community members.

😱 The Group Shaming

, Head of Product at fundingport

😬 What happened:

I had a slip-up a number of months ago. We had a recent joiner who I didn’t know too well yet, and he asked a question about the ticket he was working on in a channel thread. When I answered him, I made the mistake of saying something like, “Let’s not overcomplicate this”, and then provided the answer to his question.

For the majority of the team, this qualifier from my side wouldn’t have been an issue at all. But for my new joiner — who was trying to be thoughtful about his work — it was a total trigger, and it started the thread down a negative path.

🌱 How to avoid it:

I also could have easily replied to his question without putting my value judgment forward. So even though I disagreed with his approach, I didn’t have to state that so bluntly in a group context. My reply would have been perfectly fine without it. That was my learning.

For example, I could have approached him 1:1 to ask about his thinking, explain my side, and see where the gap was. That would have still been me being me, but also being potentially more respectful of him.

🕳 The Ownership Black Hole

, VP Engineering and Head of DEI at Tile

😬 What happened:

One of the biggest challenges we have is FOMO around meetings. We aren’t doing a great job documenting meeting notes, and due to a lack of clear ownership, everyone feels they need to know everything.

*A note from the Bunch team: miscommunications over meetings and ownership can build to a lot of tension over time. Some team members can interpret being excluded as not valuing their voice, which can de-motivate the individual as the tension builds.

🌱 How to avoid it:

We’re addressing the problem from several angles:

  1. Making sure there’s a note-taker, meeting agenda, and meeting note system
  2. Provide clear DRIs (Directly Responsible Individuals) for all projects
  3. Creating a communication document that explains where/how to communicate

🤼‍♀️ The Ambush Debate

Content at Bunch

😬 What happened:

I often run into conversations that start as an off-hand comment on slack and before you know it, spiral into a huge debate. Those always catch me off-guard. I think it’s partly a case of “think before you type,” but still it’s hard to predict how people will react.

It’s probably the worst when people are multitasking, and messaging in a meeting for example. Not only that, by the time you realize it, it’s already been 10–15 mins, and while you wish you’d have just jumped on a call but the person isn’t available and you’re already down the rabbit hole.

🌱 How to avoid it:

This advice is from , Content at Bunch

The majority of conversations that blow up are usually with “rapid responders” — colleagues on Slack who are under intense stress or time pressure and so they don’t typically have time to ask for more context. If I’m in a situation where I’m communicating with a “rapid responder” via Slack or any other messaging platform, this is what I try to do.

  • Wait for the pause — limit the single message back and forth by waiting for them to stop typing or “blasting” with messages
  • Remind them of the core problem that needs a solution — for example, I might say “I feel we’re getting away from the original problem. I’m happy to chat more about this other issue that’s come up maybe in a quick call, but for now, how can we work together to a solution for X?”
  • Check calendars when possible — since these types of text blasts tend to arise when there’s a lot of multitasking going on, I try to check the person’s calendar before sending a message I know might be triggering. That way, there’s a higher chance I will get a calmer response.

It’s not uncommon to end up in an unexpected conflict when the majority of the conversation is happening via quick messages on Slack or emoji reacts.

As a failsafe, if you feel as though a conflict may be beginning to bubble up, you can use the Non-Violent Communication Framework (NVC) developed by Marshall Rosenberg.

If you found these scenarios and solutions helpful, you can join our Teams at Work Slack community where you can tap into the swarm intelligence of leaders from around the world. , or

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