Keys to Communicating at Work

Whether you are a high-ranking manager or a brand-new hire, effective communication is key in the workplace. Workplace communication may seem like a simple subject, but there is plenty of nuances.

If you do not effectively communicate, you risk giving the wrong instructions. It is easy for one communication error to have a domino effect throughout the rest of the workplace. In addition to receiving the wrong instructions, poor communication makes it hard to ask for help or use your benefits, such as putting in for time off for personal days.

In severe cases, poor workplace communication can cause you to get in disciplinary trouble. If you work in a small team, communication is even more important, since it quickly becomes uncomfortable to work alongside a team where nobody can communicate with one another. It is important to remember workplace conversation consists of two parts, what you say at your workplace and how you listen and respond to your colleagues. Everyone responds differently to communication, so you may have to utilize several techniques to effectively communicate in the workplace.

Be Honest, Open and Transparent

One of the most important aspects of workplace communication is being open and honest with everyone. It is not uncommon for lower-ranked employees to panic when speaking with higher-ranked employees. The last thing an employee wants to do is give bad news to the manager.

For example, if your boss asks you to complete a project with a deadline you know you cannot complete, your first instinct may be to agree with the timeline because you do not want to disrupt the chain of command. When you lie to your boss, you are doing far more harm than good. If your manager knows there is an issue right away, he or she can react accordingly.

A good manager is flexible and knows how to respond accordingly to employees. If you say you cannot complete a deadline by a certain date, your manager may not be mad. If you believe you can complete the project with additional resources, such as extra supplies or another employee, be sure to communicate this to your manager.

Since you are telling your manager right away, it is early enough for him or her to adjust the project. If you wait until a day before the deadline to tell your manager you do not have the right resources, it becomes a chaotic scramble to complete the project. As a result, your manager may become upset with you for not saying something sooner.

Remain Respectful

While being honest is important, it is equally important to maintain a respectful tone. Depending on your job, maintaining a respectful tone may be difficult. Even if you consider yourself a respectful person, it is possible for you to become snappy with coworkers or even clients if you work in a stressful job. Part of being respectful means apologizing and explaining yourself if you appear rude. The longer you wait to apologize, the harder it is to recover. The last thing you want is an employee or client going home and having the rest of the night to reflect on how difficult you were.

Another important part of being respectful is not judging others or jumping to conclusions. This is especially important if you are a higher-ranking employee. If someone comes to you with help for a task you consider simple, remind yourself you have years of experience over your coworker. Do not be dismissive or incorrectly assume the employee asking for help is not good at his or her job.

Learn to Give and Accept Feedback

The key to a successful team is to provide useful feedback. A common mistake made by employees is only giving feedback when something goes wrong. Only giving negative feedback has a drastic impact on morale, since it makes employees feel like they only make mistakes and have not done anything right. Similarly, only giving positive feedback is damaging. If you only receive positive feedback, you do not know where you can improve. You continue to make mistakes until someone finally points out what you are doing wrong, and then it takes longer for you to correct your behavior because it has already become ingrained.

When providing feedback, it is important to be as clear and concise as possible. For example, saying someone is not putting in enough effort comes off as vague. Instead, focus on specific areas where the employee needs to improve, such as researching a client before a meeting or turning reports in on time. When you are giving negative feedback, do not come off as overly aggressive. Make it clear there are issues with the employee but take the time to find out what is causing the issues.

Related Article: Five Ways to Motivate Your Team

If you work on a larger team, it may be harder to give positive feedback to everyone involved. In these situations, consider doing something to make everyone feel recognized. An easy way to thank your team is to take them out to lunch to celebrate. If possible, try to give negative feedback before positive feedback. Employees who receive negative feedback last commonly worry the good feedback is overshadowed by what they did wrong.

Follow General Communication Tips

Even if you are honest and respectful, it is possible for someone to take something you said the wrong way. When you are speaking with coworkers and clients, there are several pieces of general communication advice to follow:

  • Communication is not one-sided. Make sure the other party can ask questions or explain his or her side of the story.
  • Consider the best way to communicate with someone. If you only need to send a simple message, like telling someone the date of a meeting, a text or e-mail is fine. For a longer, more serious conversation you should prioritize face-to-face communication.
  • Communication is about being understood. Do not try to impress your coworkers with colorful language or technical jargon.
  • When listening to your coworkers, focus on what they are saying, not how they are saying it. If someone sounds nervous, do not dismiss them as being inexperienced.
  • Keep an open mind when listening to ideas. Even if you initially disagree with what is being presented, give the speaker a chance to finish making his or her point before asking questions or raising concerns.

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