Communication is constant in the workplace, but is it working for your business or against it? To help you decide, ask yourself if any of these nine workplace communication scenarios could apply to your team:
- No matter what your manager is trying to tell you, it sounds either sarcastic or condescending. You feel like nothing you do is ever right, and you’re wondering if he even wants you on his team.
- Any time your team lead wants you to do something, they phrase it as a question. However, you know that they want a certain yes-or-no answer, so it’s not really a question as much as it’s a demand.
- The vice president pulls you aside and tells you to stop being disrespectful to him. When you ask what you did that was disrespectful, he refuses to give any concrete examples, only vague notions.
- Your coworker avoids face-to-face conversations and never answers your calls or responds to your emails. She’s basically ghosting you, and you’re not sure why.
Chances are, you or your team members have experienced a few of these situations at work. As frustrating as they can be, all hope is not lost. That’s because the root cause of all these issues is ineffective communication.
Having effective communication at work is not about everyone saying what’s really going on their mind, but about resolving many of these types of awkward situations that happen in every organisation, at every level. You may be surprised at how incredibly effective having simple, good communication skills are at reducing tension and improving performance.
That’s why VitalSmarts—a Top 20 Leadership Training Company—wants your organisation to learn what effective communication is, why effective communication is essential, and how to improve effective communication skills in the workplace.
What is Effective Communication Really?
Effective communication provides a purpose, avoids confusion, creates accountability, and builds a positive company culture. It defines cooperative goals, aids in collaboration, and encourages a committed and productive workforce.
What Effective Communication Isn’t
From the scenarios in the introduction, you can get a good idea about what effective communication isn’t.
- Good, effective communication is not:
- Sarcastic, condescending, or berating
- Unclear about what is wanted or needed
- Saying what you don’t mean
- Vague or overgeneralizing
- Avoidant, ignorant, or unresponsive
It’s clearly best to cultivate effective communication in any organisation. Unfortunately, poorly modelled behaviour and bad habits can bring the worst in people.
The 7 Cs of Effective Communication
To have effective communication each time you speak, strive to follow the seven Cs:
Be Clear: Use an active voice to state your goal or purpose.
Be Coherent: Make sure your statements are logical and flow well.
Be Committed: Doing so will demonstrate dedication and lends a positive impact.
Be Complete: Use complete sentences that follow through to a logical conclusion.
Be Concise: Don’t be wordy, but use only necessary words to get a message across.
Be Concrete: Leave no space for imagination to filter the intention.
Be Courteous: Always have respect and honesty.
If followed, you’ll quickly find your communication is welcomed by everyone who works with you.
Why Is Effective Communication Important?
Effective communication is not only important, but vital. Communication is the foundation of any business. The benefits that good communication brings ripple throughout an entire organisation, from senior managers down to frontline workers. When done right, communication serves to identify and resolve problems before they become a hindrance to business success both internally and externally.
9 Reasons Why Effective Communication Is Important
To lay all the benefits out in an orderly fashion, we’ve compiled a list of nine reasons why effective communication is vitally important to any workplace.
When communication is effective:
- There are fewer misunderstandings that inhibit work productivity and safety.
- A healthy workplace culture is fostered, where trust builds better employee relationships.
- Employees can share their ideas, opinions, thoughts, and feelings in a non-threatening environment where they are validated as valued individuals.
- Conflicts and problems are solved easily, quickly, and in more positive and creative ways.
- A team spirit is promoted where common goals are set, worked toward, accomplished, and celebrated.
- Employee self-esteem increases in their work and contributions.
- There is clear direction with known required or desired expectations.
How to Communicate Effectively
Communicating effectively is not about always being upbeat and positive or by saying more and more words. Not only is communicating in this way dishonest and disingenuous, but unhelpful. Plus, employees don’t like it or respond well to it.
To communicate effectively, the first step is to determine which of the communication methods work and which don’t. That’s why asking for direct, specific, and descriptive feedback is a good place to start. Once you have that, evaluate your current communication process and style. Do they help to get what you want, or do they seem to build roadblocks? Make changes accordingly and do a check-in regularly to ensure you’re constantly improving your communication skills.
Remove Barriers to Effective Communication
There will always be barriers to effective workplace communications, and some may be harder than others to overcome. However, an employer is obligated to remove as many barriers as possible so that free-flowing information and safe collaboration is accessible for all team members.
Typically, there are 3 main barriers to communication—physical, words, and personal background.
Physical: This includes distance, noise, and disabilities.
Words: Examples are excessive use of technical terms, information overload, disorganized messaging, and ambiguity.
Personal Background: This may be demographical, experiential, and attitudinal differences.
To help eliminate some of these barriers, follow the seven Cs of effective communication—be clear, coherent, committed, complete, concise, concrete, and courteous.
4 Changes You Can Make to Improve Your Communication Skills
If you find your communication skills lacking after taking a self-inventory and hearing feedback from others, here are four simple changes you can make to improve your communication skills:
Learn to listen. It’s easy to continue thinking inside your own head while someone else is speaking, but you need to stop doing this. It inhibits relationships from forming, and you end up missing most of what’s being said. Give others your full attention and genuinely concentrate on what they’re communicating to you. Do this by maintaining eye contact, regularly encouraging them to continue, and letting them know you are doing your best to understand.
Pay attention to non-verbal messages. Body language includes tone and pitch of voice, body posture and movement, and eye contact and facial expressions. The combination of all these elements often says a lot more than the actual words coming out of a person’s mouth.
Gain emotional intelligence. Understand your own and others’ emotions so that empathy can overrule logic. Humans don’t always act or react logically, so expecting everyone to do so is unrealistic and can cloud judgment during communication.
Ask questions. Draw out relevant information for the purposes of understanding more clearly, encouraging further thought, and expressing interest.
Working on these four areas will help your communication endeavors, probably even more than you expect. They take practice to master, but the effort pays off well.
How to Improve Effective Communication Skills in the Workplace
There is a staggering number of ways to improve effective communication skills in the workplace, so it would be impossible to list them all here. However, we can surely try.
- Communicate regularly with all employees. Plan in-person or online meetings once a month or so to discuss proposals, projects, projections, and propositions. Allow everyone to share their thoughts and encourage them to listen to everyone else’s.
- Assess your current internal and external communication strategies. Include in-person, telephone, email, and online methods. Are your strategies working at every level? What can be done to optimize methods and outcomes?
- Implement a solid communications culture into the onboarding process so all new employees will know what to expect, what is expected of them, and where to go for answers.
- Introduce employees to one another and encourage thoughtful connections.
- Conduct interviews to determine what needs fixing and what it would take to make an employee want to stay with the company.
- Make internal files open, organized, and easily accessible so staff can refer to them whenever needed. Ensure documents are updated frequently to reflect the most current data and information.
- Send out an internal newsletter or produce a blog to keep employees feeling involved and up-to-date on the latest events and interesting news.
- Be personable and approachable. Don’t give the impression of being highly stressed, angry, or intimidating.
- Handle concerns with confidentiality and empathy. Involve the HR department to help guide you when extra help is needed.
Just as we can’t list every single tip to improve effective communication skills in the workplace, it’s not possible for an organisation to implement them all (especially all at once) without some professional help.
Communication Skills Training
Relying on professional communications skills training for executives, managers, and team members to get your communication culture in order. Yes, your HR department can take on this endeavour itself, but to truly gain the benefits of effective communication, an expert communicator and trainer should be involved.
With an official, vetted course, the following eight Crucial Conversations skills—grounded in decades of social science research—can be taught, practiced, and coached to unleash the full benefits and effects of effective communication.
Crucial Conversations is an award-winning learning course that can help your employees learn the communication skills demonstrated by top performers. The course teaches people skills and tools for tackling Crucial Conversations in a way that achieves result without ruining relationships. The course is available in several formats to meet the unique needs of your organisation including on-demand, virtual instructor-led, and in-person. Regardless of the format you choose, Crucial Conversations enables teams and organisations to achieve higher levels of performance by changing employee behaviour—one conversation at a time.