Effective Communication in the Workplace

Employee communications can be improved and lead to greater business success.

By David Cox, SPHR, SHRM-SCP | March 05, 2017

Employees with diverse backgrounds and personalities interact in the workplace daily. As such, the ability to effectively communicate becomes critical to the success of any business or organization. Here are some suggestions on how employees can improve their communication skills.

  1. Stay focused on the current issue. Sometimes it’s tempting to bring up past work issues or topics when discussing something current. Unfortunately, do so clouds the issue and makes finding mutual understanding and a solution to the current problem less likely.
  2. Listen to truly understand others. In the workplace, people may look as though they’re listening, but are really thinking about what they’re going to say next when the other person stops talking. Truly effective communication goes both ways.
  3. Try to see the other person’s point of view. In most workplace situations, people want to feel that they have been heard and understood. They talk about their point of view to get fellow employees to see things in a certain way. Those who try to see the other side find that they can then do a better job of explaining their ideas when it’s their turn.
  4. Don’t focus on responding to criticism. It’s so easy to get defensive when another employee or a manager criticizes an idea or a proposal. No one likes to hear criticism. But it’s equally important to listen to the other person’s reasoning behind their opinion. There can be valuable information in a difference of opinion that can improve the original idea.
  5. Take responsibility for your own ideas. Realize that personal responsibility is a strength, not a weakness. Effective communication involves admitting when an idea turns out to be less than an ideal solution. When employees take responsibility, they demonstrate leadership, set a good example, and show professionalism and maturity. Employers and managers notice.
  6. Look for compromise when possible. Instead of trying to win the argument, look for solutions that meet everybody’s needs. This focus is much more effective than one person getting what he or she wants at the other’s expense. Healthy and effective communication involves finding a resolution that all parties can feel a sense of accomplishment. This is certainly no less true in the workplace.
  7. Don’t give up on a good idea. Sometimes it is best to agree to “table” an idea for discussion later. Nevertheless, a good idea should always come up again. Approach the situation with a constructive attitude, and a willingness to see other points of view. It’s possible to be persistent without appearing intractable.

The importance of effective communication for employees and managers cannot be overemphasized. Almost everything accomplished in the workplace involves communication. Communication is needed to increase efficiency, satisfy customers, improve quality, and create more innovative products and services.

When employees communicate effectively, not only with each other, but with people outside their group, they are much more likely to demonstrate excellent performance. Effective communication is all about understanding and working together to find solutions; and not about merely winning an argument or being right.

David Cox


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