Communication in the Workplace


Emails, phone calls, instant messages, presentations, spreadsheets, letters, voicemails, memos, and of course, all the meetings – communication in the workplace will take many forms and all of them have one underlying motive:  to help the organization flourish.   There are unique rules and protocols to every business and to every workplace.  In order for a company to run smoothly, these rules must be followed.  You are expected to follow the rules, lest you lose your employment there.  One thing all of these organizations have in common is the absolute need for effective communication.  Communication in the workplace is a life source.  Without effective business communication, a company could sacrifice trust, motivation, and effectiveness within, and it could lose its authority and respect – and literally its business – without.  In order for an organization to be effective, everyone working there, and that means everyone should have the skills to be an effective communicator.

Some General Rules for Improving Communication in the Workplace

Consider the proper CHANNEL when preparing your message.  It’s not necessary that everything be sent via email.  When there are minor issues, give a call.  When there is conflict, go face-to-face.  If you’re not what channel to use to send the message, think how you would like to be contacted with this type of information, or imagine sending the message via a certain channel and imagine how that would be received.  How you send the message is just as important as the message itself.  As Marshall McLuhan said, “The medium is the message,” and this is never truer than when communicating in the workplace.

communication in the workplaceYes, the channel is important – so it the CONTENT.  Ensure that it says exactly what you want it to say.  Take your time preparing it.  Sleep on it.  Look at it at different times during the day to get a different perspective.  If in writing, make sure the grammar and spelling are perfect. Make sure that your message is properly geared toward your audience.  If presenting, watch your level of detail and your use of jargon.

Work on your COMMUNICATION SKILLS.  Become an excellent writer.  Become an excellent presenter.  Take some classes; join Toastmasters.

BE AWARE of communication barriers and BE OPEN to communicating.  One of the greatest barriers to communication is the fact that people just don’t want to.  What a shock!  In the workplace, this is not an option.  Be the “go to” guy or gal.  Be the problem solver.  Be the Master Communicator.

How to Improve Communication in the Workplace

For Managers:

  1. Think before you leap.  It’s vital that supervisors and managers evaluate a situation before taking action.  They must gather as much information from as many reliable sources as possible.  Part of their job is to be the most reliable source of information for their employees and acting rashly without due consideration could severely damage a boss’s credibility.
  2. Assume the best.  Facing an issue or a dilemma in the workplace with a negative perspective can influence the situation negatively and even make it worse.  Until it’s proven otherwise, assume that everyone involve has the company’s best interest in mind.
  3. Focus on the issue(s) at hand, not on the personalities involved.  We’ve mentioned in previous articles how communication can break down when individual personalities are attacked.  Even when there is no attack, oftentimes people will feel attacked and will respond defensively.  This will add another layer of challenge to the issue.  Additionally, it’s important to work with employees on an individual basis.  Group management loses its effect.  There is nothing more effective than a one-to-one with attentiveness.
  4. Be Effective, not efficient.  We’ve mentioned this beauty from Steven Covey already.  Sure you’re busy.  Your employees are busy.  Everyone is busy.  You must make time for your workers.  Time, these days, is our most valuable commodity.  Your employees know this and know the value of your time.  When you spend it on them; when you spend it wisely with focus and concern, you will be repaid many times over.
  5. Be clear and direct.  You may not always know when your instructions are completely understood, and your employees may feel too intimidated to request clarification.  It’s a good idea to give your ear to middle level managers or employees on the floor to find out how your plans or directives are being received or if further clarification is needed.  Be sure to check in, but don’t hover.
  6. Keep an open door.  An open door, though, does no good without an open heart.
  7. Be generous with your time and praise.
  8. Give good feedback. (See #4)
  9. Don’t hear.  Listen. You hear?
workplace motivation and communication

Here is a nice article from Psychology Today that talks about motivating employees.  It’s a good read for managers and employees alike.  Also, you might want to pick up a copy of John Baldoni’s Great Motivation Secrets of Great Leaders (click on the image of the book).

For Employees

  1. Ask questions.  Ensure that you know what is exactly is expected of you.  You must know what is required, when it is needed, and how to perform any assignment given to you.  It is your supervisor’s job to make sure that you have this information.  If you do not, then ask.  This is no time to be shy or intimidated.  Take notes if you need.  If, however, you’ve been told five times how to do something, then it’s on you.  If that happens fairly often, you’ll probably be looking for a job soon.
  2. Don’t take it personally.  Part of your job is accepting correction or critique and doing a better job next time. There is a reason for procedure and detail in an organization.  If an assignment was done incorrectly, then it must be fixed.  During these moments or during a review, accept the suggestions.  Don’t make excuses.  Don’t blame.  Don’t ever say anything negative about anyone.  Try to keep a positive spin on all of your comments.  If your supervisor focuses on your personality, make mental note of it.  If your personality is affecting your job performance or the work environment, then you may need to make an adjustment.  If the focus on your personality is not directly related to your job, mention it (politely) to your boss.
  3. Be aware… of the situation.  Always keep in mind that the purpose of the company to make a profit.  You are working there and are expected to give your best for that purpose.  If you cannot or will not, your attitude will affect your performance and your dealings with others in the company, especially your supervisors.

A couple more reading suggestions for you:

In his book, Drive, Daniel Pink, author of A Whole New Mind, describes what he says is “the surprising truth” about what motivates us.

Joseph Le Doux, in his book, The Emotional Brain: The Mysterious Underpinnings of Emotional Life, describes new recent brain research that has shown that emotions are the driver for decision-making, which includes aspects of motivation.

That’s all for now for Communication in the Workplace.  We’ll have a more focused discussion on Business Communication in a later article.  We invite your comments and questions.  Thank you for reading!

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