Communication is key in every aspect of our lives, but in particular with our roles. Poor communication can be the root cause of many issues - mostly misunderstandings - which can often lead us to over-communicate to prevent this from happening. But, it doesn’t need to be this way! Unfortunately, a lot of us waste our time when we’re at work: extensive meetings, premature catch-ups, and general conversation which leads us astray from what we actually need to do at work.
Zippia produced an interesting article on time-wasting at work, with 81% of participants admitting that they waste time at work, with 31% stating that they waste at least one hour a day. If you multiply this over the course of a month, many of us are losing days of our time due to not knowing how to be more efficient with it.
The danger of over-explaining
Because communication is so key at work, it can lead many of us (especially those who haven’t been trained on how to communicate effectively) to become over the top with everything that we do. A simple catch-up call turns into a 1-hour dissection of a simple task, and emails become long-winded and often miss the point.
This is mostly down to a lack of training on how to communicate effectively, but can also be a by-product of working in a toxic environment dominated by micromanagement - which often encourages meticulous explanations out of the fear of being unable to trust employees to simply get on with their job.
The biggest danger of over-explaining is time wasted. In theory, over-communication can sometimes be seen as a good thing - especially for remote teams who don’t have as much in-person connectivity, meaning that communication styles need to be adjusted.
Although you’re able to communicate everything clearly - are you doing it in the best way? Probably not. This results in a lot of time being wasted, and before you know it, you’ve entered a realm whereby you find yourself over-explaining everything.
Why do people over-explain?
Unconsciously as a way to control anxiety
Over-explaining can be a sign of trauma, whether that is in someone’s personal life or their work life. It can be caused by a number of different situations and can cause individuals to feel the need to consistently provide evidence for what they’re doing.
It’s a lot more common than you’d think - and can be very debilitating for individuals who struggle with severe anxiety.
People pleasing/unable to set boundaries at work
Unlike anxiety, people pleasers or individuals who don’t know/are afraid of setting boundaries at work can also tend to over-explain. It can also stem from anxiety, but mostly it comes from a place of not knowing how to effectively communicate and therefore overcompensating.
It’s how they’ve been trained previously
If someone has joined you from an organisation with completely different communication styles and standards, they may carry some bad habits into your team. This isn’t necessarily a cause for concern - it’s simply that they’ve been trained in a different environment!
How can you combat over-explaining in the workplace?
“No” is a full sentence
Teaching your team the importance (and value) of succinct communication is crucial. Knowing when to just say “yes” and “no” rather than explaining every response you give can save everybody a ton of time, and encourage boundary setting. Unless an explanation is asked for - you should be able to use “yes” and “no” as a full sentence.
Encourage succinct communication
Leading by example is the best way to encourage succinct communication. Showing your team how to communicate (and even explaining in the beginning why you are teaching them this) will encourage good habits and in turn, better communication.
For example, even responding with emojis on Slack and Teams can be a great way to stay in touch without needing to talk consistently - but it also enables you to communicate quickly and effectively if something is done or not. Additionally, you can also set rules for modes of communication: how someone can communicate via email, on the phone, or over Slack - for example.
Relinquish control and embrace trust
This can be difficult to do, but to avoid over-explaining, you have to relinquish control as a leader and trust that your team are doing their roles properly. Granted, with junior or new team members this isn’t going to be possible straight away.
But, as a general rule - trusting your team members and allowing them to make mistakes (and not being too overbearing) can create a better team dynamic and also create a healthy, self-sufficient team. If you mollycoddle your team members too much, they won’t grow or develop and you’ll be stuck with individuals who aren’t self-sufficient.
Make it clear when you should talk through the process
To ensure that you and the rest of your team are completely aligned, there will be times when explanations will need to be given. However, you must make that clear to your team. Whether it’s a weekly meeting or kicking off a project, process management is still crucial - that shouldn’t go out the window!
And finally, remember that this topic can be very nuanced depending on the size and type of team that you run. The important thing is that you find a methodology that works for you, whilst optimising your teams’ performance and ensuring that they aren’t wasting their time.