Effective Communication In The Workplace: 12 Tipson 16 October 2020
Did you know that a staggering 69% of managers say they’re uncomfortable communicating with employees? This says a lot about the dynamic between managers and their subordinates, but also about company culture and communication flows throughout the organisation.
Truly effective communication in the workplace requires a lot of thought, consideration, and planning. To get your organisation on the right communication path, check out tips from industry experts below.
12 Effective Communication Methods In The Workplace
1. Encourage follow-up questions.
Luke Smith, founder of We Buy Property in Kentucky, says effective communication in the workplace is built on getting your message across and ensuring you’re understood. Oftentimes, people want to appear smart so they hesitate to ask follow-up questions. But asking these questions allows each party to gain more context, which can be valuable for understanding.
“Follow-up questions can benefit both parties, as they remove grey areas and clear up any confusion,” says Smith. “At the end of a conversation, it's useful to question the other party to ensure they understand. For example: ‘Do you understand what we've discussed, or have any additional questions?’ This goes a long way in ensuring the other party has fully grasped what was shared.”
2. Create a safe space for sharing different opinions.
Malte Scholz, CEO of Airfocus, says one of the biggest obstacles for effective communication is the lack of trust that everyone’s opinion will be heard and accepted. You don’t necessarily have to agree with everyone, but there shouldn’t be any problems with people expressing themselves. “The best way to achieve this is modeling. Have managers show themselves to be open-minded and supporting; employees will feel safe enough to say what’s really on their minds.”
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3. Discourage gossiping.
“Every workplace struggles with gossiping, which can create a negative atmosphere,” says Scholz. Even people who don’t actively participate in conversations will eventually hear rumors that can impact their mental and emotional state. The best approach for employees is to stay away from gossip and encourage others to do the same. “If you’re in a managerial position, you can help raise the standard for workplace communications by publicly discouraging gossip whenever you encounter it.”
4. Start at the top of the organization.
“Fostering good communication has to come from the top,” says Rex Freiberger, CEO of Gadget Review. Managers need to be trained to communicate with one another and their direct reports. “We like to use comprehensive training that allows managers to acknowledge the practical nature of communication as well as the emotional benefit. Sometimes you may not need to communicate information to someone, but doing so may help foster an emotional connection.”
For example, an employee may want to know how their work is being received. You may not find it necessary to tell them, but consider what they’ll gain from you sharing your perspective. “They can achieve a sense of pride in their work, and get insights into areas they can improve. These are valuable to both the employee and you as a manager.”
5. Listen to what people aren’t saying out loud.
Emmanuella Grace, founder of Find Your Voice, says adopting a calm, moderate pace when communicating fosters greater interconnectivity between those participating in the conversation. “A lot of information is lost in fast-paced exchanges. Taking the time to listen to vocal tone, watch body language, and observe nuance can tell you much more than simply listening to the words people speak.”
She says taking a few seconds to breathe before responding gives the speaker time to calm their mind and fully finish their statement. “A good byproduct of this is that you avoid speaking over them, which can throw off their concentration and prevent you from receiving the full message.”
6. Use Socratic questioning.
Grace also recommends using the Socratic questioning method, when appropriate. Socratic questioning is an oratory strategy used to ask questions. The principal is based on adopting a curious mindset, assuming you don’t know what the other person is going to say. “Maintaining an open mindset and removing judgment allows for the free flow of ideas. In turn, this fosters deep thought and leads to answers, ideas, and innovations that may not have emerged if communication remained superficial.”
7. Be transparent (but not too transparent).
“Honesty and transparency are not always the easiest choices, but in the long run they can lead to a more collaborative team environment and less wasted time,” says Grace. However, research shows that too much transparency can lead to staff members feeling exposed and vulnerable. This, in turn, may undermine their willingness to be honest and forthcoming.
8. Reduce workplace exclusion.
Allan Borch, founder of Dotcom Dollar, says it’s inevitable that some workers will be shy or introverted. It’s also possible for members of your workforce to form their own “circles,” a practice that can sow division. “With these aspects at play, try to promote an inclusive environment at work. Try to provide some activities that will engage all employees and give them ways to socialize with one another.”
9. Institute an open-door policy.
Borch notes that many employees feel intimidated by their superiors, which can hinder communication. An open-door policy is one of several effective ways to communicate with employees that has proven successful for decades. “Implement this policy, but also let them know communication will be handled professionally and with empathy. If you feel that there is still a barrier between you and some of your employees, reach out to them individually to discuss it.”
10. Establish a mentoring program.
David Adler, founder of The Travel Secret, says a great way to encourage communication while also developing your company culture is to create a mentoring program. Employees can collaborate and learn outside their immediate roles while still getting work done. This will force teammates that don’t normally speak to one another to work together, and open up new channels of communication that weren’t being used before. “Having a mentoring program also facilitates the sharing of knowledge, which can be stifled when everyone is working from home in their own bubble.”
11. Develop employees’ soft skills.
“Managers are often too focused on developing their teams' technical skill sets,” says Marie Buharin, founder of Modernesse. But there is typically not enough focus on soft skill development, with the most common one being communication.
“One of the most impactful managers in my career was someone who focused on my development as a professional,” says Buharin. “He provided me valuable reading recommendations and resources that allowed me to learn from the best communicators. He also provided me feedback on my communication style and how I led meetings.”
12. Hold everyone accountable for crossing boundaries.
Buharin says there should be clear boundaries on what types of communication are not acceptable. For example, personal attacks against someone’s character during a meeting may be inexcusable. “If you deem that inappropriate, call it out immediately and discuss the situation with the employee afterwards.”
And Buharin notes that it’s critical that all employees at all levels are held equally accountable for when boundaries like these are crossed. “If employees see that leadership is held to different standards, it will erode company culture. Trust will break down between employees, and communication will become ineffective.”
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