Crucial Skills®

A Blog by Crucial Learning


How to Have Effective Communication in the Workplace

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. You feel intimidated by your boss because he uses a loud, commanding voice while standing too close for comfort.
  6. You’ve found yourself having to repeat everything you just said because a team member is always distracted. Or, you have to give constant reminders about something because your team member is so forgetful.
  7. You are assigned a task, but have no idea how to go about completing it, let alone how to complete it in a way that’s appropriate. That’s because no one told you what they actually expect or want as an outcome.
  8. You feel rushed when trying to talk to your manager about a concern. They are always either in a hurry or uninterested in what you have to say, so you don’t have a chance to explain yourself fully.
  9. Nothing your supervisor does is right. When a project is late or details are missed, it’s all her fault. You’re the one carrying the weight, and no one else is pulling their part.

Chances are, you or your team members have experienced a few of these scenarios 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 workplace communication.
Having effective communication at work is not about everyone saying what’s really on their mind, but about solving many of these types of negative situations that happen in every organization, at every level. You may be surprised at how incredibly effective having simple, good workplace communication skills are at reducing tension and producing better work.

That’s why Crucial Learning—a Top 20 Leadership Training Company—wants your organization to learn what effective communication is, why effective communication is essential, and how to improve effective communication in the workplace.

What Is Effective Communication?

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 and environment.

To accomplish these things, effective communication is used:

  • Both formally and informally
  • Through verbal and nonverbal means
  • To speak/listen and write/comprehend
  • For conveying and receiving accurate information

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
  • Only giving negative feedback
  • Unsympathetic, disrespectful, or intimidating
  • Being distracted or not listening
  • Blaming others or failing to own mistakes

It’s clearly best to cultivate effective communication in any organization. Unfortunately, poorly modeled behavior and bad habits can cause the worst in people to come out.

The 7 Cs of Effective Communication in the Workplace

To have effective communication each time you speak, strive to follow the seven Cs:

  1. Be Clear: Use an active voice to state your goal or purpose.
  2. Be Coherent: Make sure your statements are logical and flow well.
  3. Be Committed: Doing so will demonstrate dedication and lends a positive impact.
  4. Be Complete: Use complete sentences that follow through to a logical conclusion.
  5. Be Concise: Don’t be wordy, but use only necessary words to get a message across.
  6. Be Concrete: Leave no space for imagination to filter the intention.
  7. 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 workplace communication brings (along with the failings that not having it can cause) ripple throughout an entire organization, from senior officers 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 workplace communication is effective:

  1. There are fewer misunderstandings that inhibit work productivity and safety.
  2. A healthy workplace culture is fostered, where trust builds better employee relationships.
  3. Employees can share their ideas, opinions, thoughts, and feelings in a non-threatening environment where they are validated as valued individuals.
  4. Conflicts and problems are solved easily, quickly, and in more positive and creative ways.
  5. A team spirit is promoted where common goals are set, worked toward, accomplished, and celebrated.
  6. Employee self-esteem increases in their work and contributions.
  7. There is clear direction with known required or desired expectations.
  8. Employees feel greater engagement and higher job satisfaction that goes on to encourage company loyalty.
  9. Businesses enjoy higher customer satisfaction, which is an important factor in achieving higher profits.

How to Communicate Effectively

Communicating effectively is not about always being upbeat and positive or by saying 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 regularly check in to ensure you’re improving your workplace communication skills.

Eliminate Barriers to Effective Workplace Communications

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.

Barriers to communication can be divided into three categories—physical, words, and personal background.

  1. Physical: This includes distance, noise, and disabilities.
  2. Words: Examples are excessive use of technical terms, information overload, disorganized messaging, and ambiguity.
  3. Personal Background: This may be demographical, experiential, and attitudinal differences.

To help dissolve some of these barriers, follow the seven Cs of effective communication—be clear, coherent, committed, complete, concise, concrete, and courteous. You should also work to improve the communication skills of listening better, paying attention to non-verbal messages, gaining emotional intelligence, and asking questions (as explained in greater detail below).

4 Changes You Can Make to Improve Your Workplace 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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 workplace communication endeavors, probably even more than you expect. They take practice to master, but the effort pays off well.

Effective Communication in the Workplace

The above ways to improve communication hold true in all areas of life, but there are additional tips for communicating effectively in the workplace. Having good communication as a pillar in company culture—having participation from the top down—can make all the difference. Employers who model good workplace communication skills are more likely to see their employees use them as well. It should be a team effort that reaps rewards for all.

In business, communication is often used to inspire people to take action. Therefore, don’t beat around the bush. Respect everyone’s time on the clock. Balance brevity with a personal touch. Structure opportunities for collaboration, and encourage two-way discussions. Show appreciation for your colleagues’ time.

Another thing to remember at work is to treat everyone as an equal. Don’t gossip or abuse confidentiality. Communication’s better uses are to build relationships, resolve conflicts, minimize stressors, and maintain optimism.

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 stay 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.
  • Include introverts in conversations by asking them by name to share their own ideas, experiences, or suggestions.
  • Use video conferencing to reach out to remote employees so they don’t feel ignored or unimportant.
  • Spark conversations using interesting and morale-boosting topics as a starting point.
  • Allow off-topic or social conversations to happen naturally. Humans are social creatures and do best when they can take a short mental break to focus on building their relationships with others around them.
  • Disperse information in a variety of ways. People ingest information more readily depending on their learning style. So, announce an event in person, through email, and printed on a poster to get a message through to the widest audience.
  • Recognize a job well done and broadcast it to the team, department, or entire company so that others can join in on the celebration.
  • Try sending a survey to collect information and feedback. Ask direct questions and let the answers guide your meetings, presentations, etc.
  • Accept anonymous comments for both trivial and major concerns, as some people may be less comfortable with sharing something publicly.
  • Consider using intranet software that includes easy-to-use tools that empower employees to connect and collaborate.
  • Rely on professional communication skills training to teach your executives, managers, and team members how to properly communicate with each other and their clients or customers.

Just as we can’t list every single tip to improve effective communication skills in the workplace, it’s not possible for an organization to implement them all (especially all at once) without some professional help.

Workplace 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 endeavor 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.

Learn how to:

  1. Identify conversational problems contributing to poor results at work.
  2. Consider other employees’ perspectives and assume good intentions.
  3. Keep composure when feeling defensive, angry, or intimidated.
  4. Speak persuasively and share strong opinions without being abrasive.
  5. Spot the warning signs of a risky dialogue.
  6. Find and foster mutual purpose, even with those who have opposing viewpoints.
  7. Rebuild a better dialogue after a conversation goes poorly.
  8. Turn each conversation into an action plan that leads to desired results.

Crucial Conversations pays dividends in:

  • The psychological safety of a positive workplace culture
  • A savings of time and money that will no longer be spent on unproductive conversations
  • The gains of agility and adaptability throughout changing circumstances
  • Respectful ideation and thriving innovation
  • Quick decision-making capabilities, regardless of ego and office politics
  • The evidence of employee engagement
  • The levels of preserved quality and observed safety

Take the Crucial Conversations Courses

These workplace communication skills can help you communicate more effectively, but how do you prepare for crucial high stakes conversations? Our three decades of research and experience confirm that most of the time, top performers communicate just like everyone else. But in crucial moments – when opinions differ and emotions run strong – top performers use a unique set of conversation skills to get results.

Crucial Conversations is an award-winning learning course that can help your employees learn the workplace 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 organization including on-demand, virtual instructor-led, and in-person. Regardless of the format you choose, Crucial Conversations enables teams and organizations to achieve higher levels of performance by changing employee behavior—one conversation at a time.

Your people will learn how to make even the riskiest and sensitive topics safe for discussion. How to turn disagreement into dialogue and conflict into collaboration. And how to create psychological safety and speak with respect so everyone feels comfortable sharing their perspective and meaning. These are the conditions that lead teams to make the best decisions and act on those decisions with unity and commitment.

If you’re interested in empowering your people to use their voice and create cultures of dialogue, sign up for Crucial Learning’s Crucial Conversations.

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