Bad communication. There. I said it.

I know there are other reasons we don’t trust leaders, but as a communication expert, bad communication is something I hear employees complain about over and over.

Sporadic and non-transparent communication leads to employees feeling devalued and negative because the human brain is prone to catastrophic thinking. On a good day, 80 percent of our thoughts have some degree of negative content. Throw some bad communication in the mix and it gets worse. When our brain doesn’t have all the information to complete the story, we worry. Then cortisol (a stress hormone) releases and our brain spirals into negativity.

Think of the last time someone said this to you:  “We need to talk.”

What was your first thought, “Oh, they are going to tell me something really exciting.”  How about, “They must have good news to share.” If your boss said the two of you needed to talk, would you think, “She is going to give me a raise!”

I would bet money you would think negatively versus positively.  Thoughts more like these:

“Should I be concerned?”

“What did I do now?”

“Am I in trouble?”

“Oh #$&*! My heart is pounding.”

So, how can communication be improved between leader and employee?

Leaders—Learn the communication styles of your employees and adapt to their way of communicating. For example, if you are using Gratitude G Factor (showing appreciation), do it in a way that makes sense to the employee. If your employee is more people-oriented, thank them for being a great team player or for being innovative. If your employee is more task-oriented, thank them for being so thorough in their preparation or for being expedient in getting you what you needed.

Employees—Ask your leader for what you need and help them understand what good communication looks like for you. If you would like more frequent communication, ask them for it and describe how frequent you would like it. If you feel you aren’t getting enough of the “why” behind decisions, ask for it, share why knowing is valuable to you, and tell them what you will do with the information. If you want more feedback on your performance, ask specific questions about what you want to know to make it easy for your leader to give you exactly what you need.

In any relationship, at work or at home, the best way to communicate better is to communicate about how you want to communicate.

*To learn more about G Factor, take the free assessment or purchase the book.