You know how to talk to your colleagues, but do you know how to communicate? You might be able to tell jokes and let them all know how your lovely summer vacation went, but is your message getting through to them? If you have any doubts in that regard, here are some tips for effective communication in the workplace.
Tips for an Effective Communication in the Workplace
#1. Diplomacy, diplomacy, diplomacy
Diplomacy appears first on our list of tips for effective communication in the workplace. We have tried to emphasize its importance by listing it three times. That’s how crucial it is. Things happen at the office because people happen. No matter what happens at your place of business you must handle it with tact and discretion. Nothing undermines your status more than emotional outbursts – whatever form they may take.
So when the printer quits, someone deletes a critical file, a customer becomes impossible, you must deal with it diplomatically. Failure to do so could have a long term impact on your business. Employees have walked, customers have departed never to return, and insensitivity has gotten more than one owner sued.
So take a deep breath, count to ten, and respond diplomatically. Always.
#2. Talk to your colleagues and peers face to face
Ever since the advent of electronic communication we have all come to rely on a quick and efficient digital contact. However, if you want to improve things in your business, we suggest you start talking to people face-to-face again.
Interpersonal communication builds relationships, provides an array of information tangential to the subject at hand, and tells you a great deal about your employees. Are they nervous around you? Why? Do they look harassed or over extended? That’s a clue you should follow up. What condition is their workspace? Are their papers on the floor or piled on the window sill? Perhaps you need to investigate whether the workspace is adequate. Are some employees afraid to speak up in from of others? What’s going on?
The ideal working situation elicits the best from each employee. To get to the best you need to know a great deal about the people who work for you.
#3. Show respect for cultural differences
Perhaps you recall when President George W. Bush went to Australia and used the peace sign when speaking to farmers? In Australia that is equivalent to raising your middle finger. They quickly glossed over the incident, understanding that he was unaware of the different connotation.
I spent years working and traveling in other cultures and am cognizant of the many ways to exasperate other English speaking people by using idioms which are obscure to them, gestures they have never seen, and jokes which don’t translate. If you have employees from other cultures you should be aware of some of the more glaring differences in communication styles and generally avoid idiomatic speech and gestures. It just helps ensure that everyone understand the same thing.
Tip – if you work in a company with a multinational environment, try to browse through some articles about cultural differences.
#4. Giving feedback
You must provide your employees feedback on their performance, both good and bad. Below are some tips to help you avoid confusion, anger and other non-productive responses from the employee:
- Make sure your comments are as detailed as possible, even at the risk of being redundant.
- Be specific. Don’t say “The warehouse is a mess.” Say “The unloading went well but the stock was not shelved properly.”
- When you must reprimand an employee, offer solutions. For instance, “You were late posting the last two monthly reports.” merely makes the individual defensive. So include a supportive statement such as “I’m concerned that you are overloaded” or “I’m concerned you aren’t receiving the numbers in a timely fashion”
- Always remember that positive feedback gets the best results. It doesn’t have to be formal: “That was an excellent report” or “You have done a fine job of organizing inventory” has far reaching consequences.
#5. Leave Emotion Out of It
It is easy to state that emotions, yours and your employees, should not be brought into the workplace. It is, however, an unfortunate fact that human beings have difficulty switching off feelings simply because they have moved location. Realistically, the best you can do is refuse to allow your own emotional upsets to color your behavior at work and encourage the same conduct from everyone else.
Some employees are anxious to keep personal upsets under wraps and may be adept at doing so. Then there are those who relish the drama and actively include anyone who will listen in their latest problem. It’s easy to assume that the apparently unruffled individual is untroubled and ignore the situation while allowing the drama seekers some slack while their problem plays out. When an employee has had a personal catastrophe (either real or imagined) the quality and timeliness of their work may suffer. Your job is to assess how critical the situation is to the employee and devise a course of action based on your knowledge of the person. The nature of the crisis is irrelevant.
We tend to learn to suppress our feelings as we mature. Be sure you don’t insert your own emotions into the situation by imposing your perception of what is important on the employee, particularly young ones.
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