Message Not Received

Why Business Communication Is Broken and How to Fix It

Simon has given us a 21st-century guide to communicating that is both personal and universal.

—David H. Freeman, Contributing Editor at The Atlantic and author of Wrong


The ability to express an idea is well nigh as important as the idea itself.

—Bernard Baruch

Publication date: March 2, 2015
Publisher: Wiley
Translations: Chinese (by end of 2016)

George Bernard Shaw once famously said, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

Although he died in 1950, Shaw’s words live on, especially in the business world. Far too many executives, salespeople, consultants, and even rank-and-file employees suck at communicating. Some think that they’re speaking and writing effectively when they drop ostensibly sophisticated terms like paradigm shift, synergy, net-net, form factor, and optics. Others think that they’re being clever.

No doubt that you know the type. (Maybe you’re even one of them and don’t realize it.) These are the folks who regularly rely upon obscure acronyms, technobabble, and buzzwords when plain English would suffice just fine. They constantly invent new tech-laden words, bastardize others, and turn nouns into verbs. They ignore their audiences, oblivious to the context of their words. In other words, they talk without speaking.

If bad business communication is a disease, the prevalence of hackneyed and utterly meaningless terms is just one of its major causes. Aside from using confusing language, many corporate folks depend almost exclusively on a single communications vehicle: e-mail. In the process, they actively resist new, powerful, and truly collaborative tools specifically designed to make people work and communicate better.

What’s the net effect of this near-pervasive failure to effectively communicate while at work? The precise monetary figure is impossible to quantify. At the same time, though, it cannot be overstated. At a minimum, communication breakdowns are directly responsible for myriad inefficiencies, duplicate efforts, ineffectual campaigns, project failures, largely avoidable gaffes, internal political squabbles, and forgone business opportunities.

If that seems a bit lofty and abstract, then consider the following real-world scenarios.

  • Think about how many misunderstandings could have been averted at your organization if two colleagues had simply engaged in a five-minute in-person conversation or videoconference over Skype.
  • Ask yourself how many technical problems could have been solved with a quick phone call and a simple screen-sharing session.
  • Have you ever missed a truly critical e-mail because it was hidden in your never-ending inbox?
  • Have you even been unable to do your jobs because key documents languished in someone’s inbox or on someone’s hard drive?
  • How many software vendors have lost a potential sale because the prospective client couldn’t or didn’t understand what your company is selling?

Fortunately, business communication need not suffer from antiquated tools and a commensurate mind-set. In Message Not Received, I demonstrate how intelligent professionals and organizations are embracing simpler language and new technologies to communicate in a much more straightforward and effective manner. No theoretical text, Message Not Received takes the reader on a journey, stopping at progressive companies like Klick Health, Sidecar, and PR 20/20 along the way.

Message Not Received examines how we communicate, use, and often misuse language and technology at work. It’s high time to reexamine not only what we say while we’re on the clock, but how we say it.

What’s the book about in three minutes? Watch below to find out.

To support the book, I did three-city tour in late March and early April of 2015. I covered Las Vegas, Seattle, and Austin, TX. I spoke at Zappos, Smartsheet, Atlassian, Edelman PR, Sabre, and WPEngine.

You can watch the talks from most of the events here on the “Communications” tab.

Book Tour Sponsors

A sincere thank you to the companies that helped make it happen:



Here’s the introduction to the book.



Most of our life at work is spent communicating—poorly. Phil Simon has written a modern business classic that compels you to adopt new technology and simplify your discourse. Highly recommended!

—Jay Baer, New York Times best-selling author of Youtility

The message comes through loud and clear in Phil Simon’s smart new book: today’s workplace is drowning in information overload, bad communication, and missed opportunities. Simon shows us the path forward with his savvy and practical advice.

—Dorie Clark, Adjunct Professor, Duke University Fuqua School of Business and author of Reinventing You

Business communication is dismal today. Message Not Received gives us reasons and tools for change.

—Scott Berkun, bestselling author of The Myths of Innovation

There are three things I look for in a workplace book: smart, pragmatic ideas; research and anecdotes that back those ideas up; and a writing style that is engaging and respects the reader’s intelligence. Message Not Received has all those things. It makes you think about the way we communicate at work and the ruts we get stuck in – ruts that we can get out of quickly by simply taking a little time to think. The book doesn’t try to give readers “A Surefire Solution to All Your Communication Problems!” or “20 Steps to Better Workplace Communication!” It puts the onus on us to think about our over-reliance on technology and give the way we interact and deliver information the thoughtfulness and attention it deserves. Mr. Simon has made a strong contribution to the world of workplace writing.

—Rex Huppke, Chicago Tribune

Message Not Received tops my list of this year’s business book club suggestions. We need to start a movement for communication clarity throughout our organizations. Simon’s book can be our clarion call.

—Prof. Terri Griffith, Ph.D., chair of Santa Clara University’s Management department and author of the award-winning book, The Plugged-In Manager

Ironically, it takes a book—this book—to help people understand how to effectively communicate in a business world increasingly dominated by quick electronic messages that might be completely ignored or flashed to a billion people. Phil Simon lays out the scope of our failure to express ourselves well in new media, the consequences of these misused opportunities, and, most important, a clear, specific roadmap for how any individual can do much, much better in almost any context. Plying us with illuminating examples taken from the real business world, and adding in observations and background from a range of perspectives, Simon has given us a 21st-century guide to communicating that is both personal and universal.

—David H. Freeman, Contributing Editor, The Atlantic, and author of Wrong and A Perfect Mess

Message Not Received blows the linguistic lid off all that lazy communication at work. You know what I mean: ‘the synergistic win-win balance of competing forces’ someone proposed at your last meeting, and everyone nodded even though no one had the foggiest idea what was just said. Simon challenges you to take charge of your communications, cut the obfuscation, and make them meaningful. Your colleagues, your customers, and your bottom line will thank you.

—Dr. Nick Morgan, President of Public Words Inc. and author of Power Cues: The Subtle Science of Leading Groups, Persuading Others, and Maximizing Your Personal Impact

In today’s business world, communication is more important and easily accessible than ever before – so why are we making it so complicated? In Message Not Received, Phil Simon closely examines why keeping it simple amounts to clear and efficient communication. I highly recommend that everyone in business omit buzzwords and take Simon’s direction.

—Larry Weber, Chairman & CEO of RacepointGlobal and author, The Digital Marketer

Look behind any business failure and you’ll find the lack of communication as a root cause. Phil Simon’s latest book, Message Not Received, examines how and why the latest technologies that are intended to radically improve business communication too often obstruct it instead. Simon’s book provides thorough, effective strategies for enabling effective organizational collaboration and communication to ensure business messages are indeed received. If you want to improve your organization’s communication skills, you owe it to yourself to read this book.

—Robert Charette, President, ITABHI Corporation an internationally known enterprise risk management expert

In a world where disjointed and disorganized communication is the norm, Message Not Received arrives at the perfect time. Phil Simon provides tremendous insights and practical approaches to improve our communication both in and out of the office. If you want to make sure your words are actually heard (not just delivered), then you need to read this book.

—Mike Vardy, Productivity Strategist and founder of Productivityist

A refreshingly relevant critique of modern business communication.

—Michael Schrenk, online intelligence consultant and author of Webbots, Spiders, and Screen Scrapers

An essential resource for business clarity. Read Message Not Received to learn how to strip out the jargon and quit confusing people with buzzwords.

—Anita Campbell, Founder and CEO of Small Business Trends

Here’s a list of mentions and press for the book. Updated 06.27.16

As part of my book tour for Message Not Received, I printed some t-shirts. I gave out most of them out as prizes during my talks.

A few people have asked me about if they could buy them. If you’re interested, I’m selling them on eBay at my cost: $20 (USD).


The most recent tweets about the book.