Here's Why Workplace Communication is so Important & How to Improve It

workplace-communication

Building effective communication skills in the workplace is essential to ensure cooperation and success among your team. This article will go through the importance of having strong communication in the workplace, as well as finding your communication style, and how to build your communication skills.

What is Workplace Communication?

Workplace communication involves the sharing of ideas, information, feedback, goals and strategies between all employees in an organization. The dynamics of workplace communication also depend on company policy, employee hierarchy and company goals. 

What do we mean by effective workplace communication?

Everyone in the workplace communicates every day using a variety of mediums. Effective communication means that all employees can communicate harmoniously, without misunderstandings, and in a way that progresses their team to achieve their goals. Workplace communication has a variety of forms, including: 

1. Verbal

Direct person-to-person spoken communication, either in-person or over the phone. Verbal communication also includes tone of voice, use of language, volume and pitch.

2. Non-verbal

Non-spoken communication, including body language, facial expressions and physical contact such as handshakes etc.

3. Written

Any form of communication which takes place through writing, such as emails, contracts, letters, and online platforms such as Microsoft Teams.

4. Visual

Communications which are largely design based, such as infographics, workplace signage, presentations, color palettes etc.

These forms of workplace communication can also be sent and received both digitally or in-person, further changing their dynamics.

7 Common Communication Styles

Practicing effective communication in the workplace does not only involve working on your own communication skills, but also learning to adapt to others’ communication styles. Understanding your colleagues’ communication styles in the workplace allows for better cohesiveness within your team. Let's go through the 7 workplace communication styles: 

1. Passive Communication

People with a passive communication style in the workplace do not naturally want to speak up, and would rather let others do the majority of the talking and decision making. They are otherwise team players, but tend to hold back their thoughts, even if they want to contribute. Passive communicators can sometimes try to use body language or facial expression to convey their meaning instead of directly stating their ideas.

2. Aggressive Communication

Aggressive communicators can be driven by anger and judgements, usually having a reactionary response to any obstacles. As a result, aggressive communicators can push their own ideas, regardless of how helpful they are, and become inflexible if plans change. 

3. Passive-Aggressive Communicators 

Passive-aggressive communicators will also have reactionary responses to things, but will hold these emotions inside, instead of communicating how they feel. Holding on to these emotions can lead to resentment, and influence their productivity and actions. Passive-aggressive communicators will often use resentful facial expressions and tone of voice to convey their meaning.

4. Manipulative Communication

Manipulative communication in the workplace occurs when an employee tries to influence others to fulfill their own hidden agenda. Manipulative communicators can often overrun meetings or guilt others into complying with them through using emotional language and deliberate use of tone or body language to ensure they get the final say.

5. Assertive Communication

Assertive communicators in the workplace are capable of sharing their thoughts, feedback and ideas in a straightforward yet tactful way. Emotions can be moved aside in order to come up with solutions. Assertive communicators do not have an agenda to their communication, and can form connections with employees at all levels.

6. Direct Communication

Direct communication in the workplace involves cutting out any unnecessary information and getting straight to the point. Direct communicators can easily say what they have on their mind, and do so in a way that can sometimes come across as insensitive. Direct communicators do not use body language or facial expressions to convolute meaning, and often everyone can easily interpret what they mean.

7. Indirect Communication

Indirect communicators will often talk around the point, and try to mask their intentions or needs. Usually indirect communicators rely on someone else being able to interpret what they mean, and would rather be approached for their opinion than give it directly.

📚Further reading: What Are Work Styles & How to Find Yours

Why is Workplace Communication Important?

workplace-communication

Teams and companies will succeed when everyone is working towards the common goal. In order to achieve this, everyone needs to be on the same page. Whether it’s being given clear instructions, understanding team dynamics or knowing the best way to work together, workplace communication plays a role in everything. Here are reasons why effective workplace communication is so important: 

Impact On Team Collaboration and Productivity 

Efficient task allocation
Strong workplace communication between employees and managers can mean that every employee is given tasks that they both can enjoy and succeed in.

Real-time problem solving
Not holding back when communicating problems can lead to better solutions in a shorter time frame.

Collaborative decision making
If there is open communication in the workplace, everyone can feel like they are allowed to contribute during decision making.

Project coordination
When working with many teams, effective workplace communication can ensure that there is a streamlined approach to fulfilling project goals.

Innovation and creativity
Encouraging open communication in the workplace allows employees to feel welcome to share their ideas, which can lead to innovative approaches.

Feedback loops
When there is strong workplace communication, feedback can be utilized in a productive way.

Relationship Building

Trust and transparency
If everyone is communicating openly and in a healthy way, then trust can be built across teams.

Employee recognition
Encouraging healthy workplace communication can allow employees to feel as though they have a say in their role, improving job satisfaction.

Conflict resolution
Issues can be solved much faster when there is effective workplace communication. Having a strong conflict resolution workflow can minimize conflict and improve morale.

Mentorship and coaching
Open workplace communication encourages managers and employees to have a collaborative dynamic, where coaching can occur.

Social interaction

A lack of communication in the workplace can discourage employees from socializing. Strong communication in the workplace can encourage socializing behavior between employees, improving morale and job satisfaction.

Employee feedback and surveys

Open communication in the workplace can mean that more valuable information can be obtained through company issued surveys and feedback forms. Employees are often worried about the repercussions of raising an issue, but open communication in the workplace can reduce this.

Influences Organizational Culture and Success 

Company Mission

Open communication of the company mission can reduce any confusion about the company’s goals and objectives. 

Organizational changes
If there is effective workplace communication, then changes to the company can easily be conveyed, reducing friction when it comes to policy changes etc.

Employee buy-in
Open communication about the company’s mission and values allow all employees to feel a part of the company, and feel responsible for the company’s success.

Employee empowerment

Open communication in the workplace can reduce tension and barriers between employees and managers. The ability to openly communicate gives employees agency and empowers them in their role.

Organizational reputation
Communication in the workplace can directly influence the company culture and reputation. Encouraging open communication in the workplace can improve your company’s reputation as employees could highlight it as a positive on sites like glassdoor.

Ways to Develop Your Communication Skills at Work

Now we know just how important effective communication in the workplace is, let's discuss ideas on how you can improve your communication skills. Improving your communication skills in the workplace involves going back to basics, in all forms of communication.

Active Listening Techniques

Active listening involves listening and interacting with others in a way that improves mutual understanding. Rather than just patiently listening until someone finishes speaking, active listening involves:

  • Showing the speaker that you are paying attention, using eye contact, nodding or answering them verbally when necessary.
  • Being present during the conversation, by removing distractions and interacting with the materials being presented.
  • Asking questions that help you understand the content more.
  • Staying on topic, avoiding derailing the conversation.
  • Withholding judgment or advice unless it is specifically asked for.

Developing Strong Verbal Communication

Improving verbal communication skills in the workplace involves everything you say, and the way you say it. It’s not just the words that you decide to use, but also the tone, pitch, volume and speed you say them. To improve verbal communication in the workplace you can try:

  • Think before you speak, to make sure that the question you are asking is relevant and clear to others.
  • Using concise language, and avoiding unnecessary anecdotes, or re-capping information that is already known.
  • Reading the non-verbal cues of the audience.
  • Being mindful of your tone, pitch, volume and speed of speaking.

Developing verbal communication skills can be difficult to do whilst on the job – to start off, you could try recording a meeting or presentation and review your verbal communication to see where you need to improve.

📚Further reading: Guide to Upgrading Your Presentation Skills [+ Tips You Shouldn't Miss]

Enhancing Written Communication Skills

Written communication in the workplace involves both digital and non-digital forms of writing. Luckily, it is easy to improve written communication, as you can look back at previous work to gain insight into the way you write. To improve your written communication in the workplace, you can try:

  • Studying the abbreviations used internally by your company, so you are confident in using it yourself.
  • Take notice of the way management communicates with employees via email, and compare it with your own emails.
  • Review any workplace etiquette guides regarding appropriate written communication, if any.
  • Use straightforward language which is unlikely to be misinterpreted by others.

Understanding Non-Verbal Cues In The Workplace

Improving non-verbal workplace communication involves understanding your colleagues and managers well. To improve your non-verbal communication skills, you will need to observe the way people in your company generally present themselves, including:

  • The posture people sit and stand with during meetings or in the office.
  • How eye contact is used.
  • Whether people change their behavior when managers or bosses are around.
  • Personal space expectations.
  • Whether people freely express themselves via facial expressions.

All of these non-verbal cues can vary between individuals. You should also take note of the way you would naturally behave at work, and evaluate whether it is appropriate for your workplace. You do not need to understand every micro-expression of all of your colleagues; however, learning to read the room is an essential part of working in teams.

How To Improve Workplace Communication?

Organizations can encourage open workplace communication through leading by example. Setting the status quo for open, honest communication will allow your employees to follow suit. Areas to address when improving workplace communication include:

  • Establishing clear communication channels, such distinct rooms and channels on Microsoft Teams, which have a clearly stated purpose and rules.
  • Issuing company policies for handling complaints, transparency in communication, as well as a guide for communication expectations for the employees.
  • Strategies and workflows for giving constructive feedback.

Every dimension of communication – verbal, non-verbal, visual and written, both in-person and online, needs to be addressed when implementing communication guidelines in the workplace. This is especially important as hybrid and remote work becomes increasingly popular. Strengthening communication in hybrid and remote workplaces can be achieved through:

  • Utilizing a digital communication tool that all employees are required to communicate through.
  • Scheduling regular virtual meetings, so that employees and managers can stay in the loop.
  • Find and address challenges in communication which occur, before issues arise.
  • Foster a virtual team culture by creating a channel for chit-chat.
  • Trust employees to do their job, and avoid surveillance-style communication expectations.

📚Further reading: How to Be Efficient While Working from Home? 5 Best Productivity Apps (Free!)

Overall, effective workplace communication allows employees to work together efficiently, have open conversations, and avoid conflict. Individual communication styles also influence the productivity of a team, and knowing how to communicate with others effectively can make completing tasks easier. 

Even if a company sets communication expectations and leads by example, there will still be issues that arise. Having a comprehensive strategy and putting workflows in place can reduce the likelihood that communication issues affect the company’s productivity as a whole. Communication is a skill that needs to be continuously improved, and encouraging open communication can allow your employees to do so freely.

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--- Originally written by Bronte McNamara ---

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