10 Leadership Communication Habits That Ruin Relationships

10 Leadership Communication Habits That Ruin Relationships

Few people admit to poor communication habits—much less habits that can cost them a promotion, a job, or a deal. Yet we’ve all seen the following bad habits in colleagues from time to time—and for some, they occur on a daily basis.  Guard against letting these creep into your own interactions with staff, peers, or partners:

10 Poor Leadership Communication Habits

1. Abrupt Topic Changes

People who perturb their friends and colleagues alike may have one or all of these habits that are closely related. As if they’re unaware a conversation is in progress, they dash into the middle of it and figuratively yell “fire.” Do it once and people forgive, thinking you must have suddenly awakened from a bad dream. But do it repeatedly, and people see it as a downright disrespectful and annoying habit.

2. One-Upping Stories

After someone tells a story—about horrible customer service, what their bright child accomplished, how hectic their workload has been, how well their team has performed on a key projectresist the urge to top it with your own story. You’ve just shoved them out of the spotlight to take your own bow.

3. Name Dropping

You’ve heard people needlessly drop names of every famous friend, colleague, or client they have—all for no good reason in the context of the conversation. The name dropping communicates only a lack of confidence in their own credibility or accomplishments.

4. All-About-Me Syndrome

As I coach sales teams in redesigning their presentations, the most frequent mistake I hear them make is this “all-about-us” opening: They start their client meeting or presentation with “let me tell you all about our team and what we can do for you.” Wrong approach. Clients—as well as total strangers—want to know how you can help THEM before they care to know all about you.

5. Listening Intolerance

You’ve heard people say they’re lactose intolerant. Likewise, some people are listening intolerant. All their communication is one-directional: output. They may ask questions, but their follow-up action demonstrates that they don’t hear input and feedback from others.

6. Impatience for Greener Grass

It’s highly likely you’ve been a victim of this person yourself: While shaking your hand or listening to you, they’re glancing over your shoulder to see if there’s someone more interesting nearby. They seem eager to escape at the first opportunity to go somewhere more intriguing. Giving someone the ‘glance over” communicates “you’re unimportant to me and actually blocking my way.”

7. The Brush-off

The brush-off may be hard to describe, but you know it when you feel it. You send a pleasant email with a couple of questions; the response is curt and your questions go unanswered. Or you’re talking to someone at a networking event, and they nod a couple of times to your comments and turn to engage a passerby.

8. Lack of Punctuality

Joining meetings late, sending late reports, responding to emails later than the cultural norm––all communicate to others either that you consider your time more valuable than theirs or that you can’t handle your work responsibilities. Neither message communicates a positive picture.

9. Non-responsiveness

Non-responsiveness shows up in several forms: “Forgetting” to respond to an email. “Forgetting” to answer questions in an email or text. Nonparticipation in meetings. Refusal to cooperate with procedures or policies—or other passive-aggressive behaviors. When such behavior becomes habitual, before long you’re known around the workplace as a “toxic” coworker that others don’t readily want to have on their team or projects.

10. Moodiness

Colleagues expect you to master your moods. They don’t want to deal with Delia the Dragon today and Sam the Lamb tomorrow. If they call a strategy meeting with a supplier, they need to know which personality will show up in the conference room. Habitual mood swings make communication—and business—risky.


Clear, consistent, pleasant communication is the shortest path to genuine coworker and client relationships.