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

😬 What happened:

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:

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

😬 What happened:

*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:

  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

😬 What happened:

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:

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. Check out the framework in the Bunch web app (it’s free!) or download it on the App Store.

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. Apply to join here, or download the AI Coach to get direct access.

Co-founder, CEO at Bunch — Helping future leaders grow; bookworm, psychologist and relentless optimist. Grow | Inspire | Stay humble