Effective communication is crucial to a well functioning workplace.
But so often, we’re not taught how to communicate effectively, or how the communication rules can change from setting to setting. How can you make sure your workplace communicates well? In what ways can boundaries be communicated firmly but kindly? How can misunderstandings be addressed? Is conflict something we engage with or ignore?
All of these are questions we should consider in our workplace. Unfortunately, most of us don’t realize when communication isn’t effective until we’ve already bumped into a conflict.
So to help, we’ve put together this list of ways to improve workplace communication.
1). Lead by example:
When conflict or miscommunication comes up, respond the way you would want someone to respond if they were unhappy with you. This will probably be awkward, but it signifies respect for your colleagues which will be appreciated and remembered–just as a passive aggressive (or just aggressive) attempt at addressing the conflict would be remembered.
For example: You have clear boundaries on when you’ll check email and when you won’t. You only check email in work hours or if you know to be looking out for something you need.
However, a colleague has begun texting you about emails they’ve sent to you, even though none of them are urgent and can be answered when you’re back in the office in the morning. Instead of just ignoring the messages, or maybe even snapping at your coworker, model the boundaries and communication methods you’d like them to follow.
Respond and say, “I appreciate you wanting to keep me updated, but I don’t like to keep up with work emails when I’m home for the night unless it’s a special circumstance. I’ll definitely get back to you on all of this in the morning.”
2). Check in:
If communication with a colleague seems off–maybe they aren’t responding to emails, or not finishing projects, or seem less reliable or reachable, check in. They might be overwhelmed and not sure how to bring it up, or even afraid or ashamed to ask for help. You can let them know you notice they’ve seemed less communicative lately, and ask them if there is an issue that you can help with. Opening those lines of communication make it easier for others to also address problems and needs in the workplace.
3). Establish preferred communication styles (if possible)
One person might be better at communicating with written communication like email or text. Other people might need to talk things through, with a voice memo or a voxer, or even a loom video. If you’re able to make accommodations for people’s preferred communication style, you will be able to meet them where they are and communicate more effectively.
4). Assume everyone is trying their best:
Especially as we’re living through a pandemic right now, we might not be as “on top” of everything as we usually are–including communication. This might mean things are forgotten or extra reminders are needed to be given. Sometimes this can be really frustrating, because it can feel like someone is needlessly making our lives harder. But the truth is probably that they are doing the best they can in a really hard time, and something fell through the cracks.
Being understanding doesn’t mean you have to just do their work for them, but staying kind and open minded when reminding colleagues of what you need from them makes communicating with each other easier and far less stressful.
Does your workplace need help with communication skills? Our Wellbeing at Work team can help.