Creating Effective Workplace Communication

By Regan Joswiak

In the workplace, communication occurs on a daily basis. E-mails, phone calls, meetings—all of these modes and the ways in which we operate within them often aren’t given a second thought. But when there are problems with how information is shared or received, this can lead to misunderstandings and conflict within the workplace. In some cases, an employee’s productivity and motivation may also be affected in a breakdown of communication, which affects a company’s performance as a whole. There are many ways to create more effective communication, but here are five tips:

Don’t Rely on E-mail

Technology may offer a fast way to communicate, but it can also cause more misunderstandings. Your short e-mail response may not be intended to be dripping in aggravation, but this is how it could be interpreted. Without tone or facial expressions, it is up to the reader to project these onto your text.
This is why face-to-face communication or even a phone call can prevent problems that occur with e-mail or other electronic forms. Also, a study conducted in 2011 by Fonality and Webtorials discovered that at least half of the worker’s time was spent on e-mail. If a conversation requires back-and-forth responses or detailed elaboration, this requires more time, and if the messages are unclear, this creates further time management issues.
This is not to say that e-mail should be completely avoided. In fact, it can be useful—particularly in legal situations—to have conversations in writing. If there is any kind of dispute, the conversation can be referred back to. It can also be useful in terms of referencing detailed plans or instructions. Just keep in mind, however, that having a conversation outside of text can remove unnecessary misunderstandings.

Be Clear and Concise

Quality can be better than quantity when it comes to communicating. Your ideas and instructions should be clear and focused. This is always better than making a long, vague list. For a message to be properly received, your recipients should be given information that removes ambiguity and promotes remembrance and understanding.
Sometimes information must be more drawn out and detailed, but this does not mean that it should be any less clear. Use appropriate forms of communication for large amounts of technical information, such as written memos.

Don’t Just Talk—Listen

Being an effective communicator is more than just talking—it’s listening as well. If your mind is elsewhere when someone is speaking to you, you may be hearing them rather than actually listening. Stephanie Watson, a communication specialist and writer for How Stuff Works, offers a method for training yourself to listen: Pretend that you are going to take a quiz after you’ve had a conversation with someone. While you’re listening, keep a mental checklist of the important information that you are told. At the end of the conversation, make yourself recall at least three things from your checklist.
Another helpful suggestion that Watson mentions is repeating what someone tells you. An example of this is saying “I understand that…” and follow the statement with what they said. This method not only helps you remember information, but it shows others that you have an active interest in what they are saying.

Respect and Understand Differences

There have been numerous studies that show that personal background affects how you communicate. This can be based on gender, cultural background, age, or other factors. For example, men and women communicate differently, as Kenya Lucas’ article “About Overcoming Communication to Improve the Workplace” discusses. Men are more likely to focus on actions, facts, and quick resolution. Women are inclined toward a more measured, analytical approach.
To help prevent communication problems based on personal backgrounds, you should learn more about these types of communication differences.

Leave Your Emotions at the Door

When many different personalities are thrown into a small office space, it is not always easy to maintain professionalism. If an employee is starting to wear down your patience, remain calm and try to take your emotions out of the situation.
This is easier said than done, but form your responses or comments so that they are not personal. Referring back to Watson, she suggests that instead of saying, for example, “You did a terrible job putting together that sales presentation!” try “Here are a few points I think you need to work on that will really add to what you’ve written.”
Another suggestion is to ask for clarification at the end of a conversation to make sure that you understand one another. Again, this should be unemotional and professional, and should be intended only to ensure that your message was clearly received.

If you are having recurring conflicts with someone, come to our office for mediation. We offer free counsel and will help you find a resolution.
Call our office at (936) 294-1717, e-mail us at slms@shsu.edu, or go to our website at http://www.shsu.edu/legalservice to schedule an appointment.
SLMS—Pointing Bearkats in the Right Direction.

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