How to communicate better with your colleagues
Communication at the workplace, also referred to as “professional communication”, is the process of sharing information at work or in the office for the benefit of the organization. This subject is concerned with the creation, management, spreading, and usage of information within companies and organizations.
It is considered a relatively new field that is quickly evolving due to the advancement of technology. It is generally agreed that effective communication is essential for the success of a company. Here we will take a look at the role of workplace communication and strategies to improve it.
Table of Contents
The role of effective communication at the workplace
The importance of communication in the workplace is acknowledged by the majority of companies and organizations. It is an essential factor that can greatly contribute to the success of a business.
Establishing proper lateral and vertical communication channels is associated with increased efficiency and productivity. Employers who take the time to ensure proper communication within their companies provide several beneficial conditions for their staff and business.
For example, employees become more productive and engaged when their workplace has effective communication practices. They know that their opinion matters and their voice is heard.
On the other hand, poor communication at work can be incredibly detrimental to a company.
Workers can become unmotivated and lower their productivity. Businesses that have poor internal communication can struggle with success and miss out on profits.
How to improve your communications skills in the workplace
One of the most important professional qualities that you can acquire is a set of effective communication skills. This will not only help you get along with your colleagues and other people you have professional relationships with but it will greatly contribute to your success at work.
#1. Master written communication. Nobody has the time to ponder over prolonged email communication in the workplace and chaotic DMs. So be concise and get to the point. Structure your writing carefully and stress on the important parts by spacing them diligently. Resort to formatting, use bold, italic, lists, and color-coding to make your writing easy to scan and absorb.
#2. Master verbal communication. Speak clearly and stick to your main points. Use concise sentences to deliver your statements and be aware of your tone and voice. Always take a comfortable posture and a deep belly breath before you start to speak in order to project your voice and command attention.
#3. Be a good listener. Communication is a two-way street. How you receive and analyze information is just as important. So give other speakers the opportunity to finish speaking, don't interrupt them. This will show them that you value their opinion and they are being heard.
#4. Keep your emotions in check. Don't engage in communication when you are emotional. Anger can cloud your judgment. But so can joy and excitement. Talk and write to others when you are calm and logical.
#5. Choose the right communication channel. There is a place and time for everything. Some situations are better resolved in person. Others require written formal communication. Always resort to the proper communication channel to ensure effectiveness.
#6. Choose the right time. Good communication is not just about where but when as well. For example, it's perfectly fine to ask your boss for a raise. But maybe don't do it at 8 in the morning before their first coffee.
#7. Mind your audience. What and how you speak should be done in accordance with whom you speak to. Be particularly careful when you speak to your boss, HR, and people from other departments.
#8. Ask for honest feedback. The opinion and ideas of others can make us better professionals. So actively seek what others think of your work and methods. Make it clear that you are fine with criticism and you won't take it personally.
#9. Be comprehensive. When you explain things, be it in writing or speaking, make sure to offer all the essential information as well as your reasonings. This way you show that you are engaged with your projects and you are eager to succeed.
#10. Strive for honesty and understanding. At the end of the day, good communication is about being honest and understanding others. So don't keep things to yourself. Ask questions and state your concerns. Don't be afraid to share what you think.
How to improve communication at the workplace
If you have great communication skills, then you can extend the good practices that you follow to everyone in the office. Here are a few strategies from Office Topics on how to improve workplace communication.
#1. Establish a company culture. Company culture is a set of core values and beliefs that are practiced by the people who make up the company. Make sure that all staff knows what your company is all about and what your mission is.
#2. Integrate communication in team culture. It doesn't matter if you are part of a small team or a big department. You need to set up a team culture that is focused on clear and effective communication that works towards your company goals.
#3. Safe space communication. People need to feel safe in order to communicate honestly. If you want your colleagues to be engaged in the work process and share their honest opinion and questions, then you should clearly state that they are in line to do so. Shy team members can benefit from an anonymous feedback form.
#4. Conduct weekly team meetings. Make time for weekly gatherings where you discuss your projects and strategies. Keep them short and stick to essential updates and work progress. Make sure everybody is on the same page and you are making steady progress.
#5. Get to know each other. You are colleagues but you can be friends as well. Understanding the people you work with on a personal level will strengthen your professional relationship. Team building events and casual outings are a great way to bond.
#6. Go to work retreats and conferences. Another great way to bond with your colleagues is through professional trips, work retreats, and industry conferences. This gives you fresh new perspectives, allows you to get to know each other, and serves as a fun break from work that is still productive in nature.
#7. Set up clear channels of communication. Make sure that everyone is aware of what information should be shared and how it should be shared. Important updates are best shared through mass email and email groups, while team chats and conference calls are great for project updates and idea-sharing.
#8. Rearrange the office. Some team members and entire teams might need to speak in person more often than others. So why not make a few strategic moves and bring them closer together. Consider what would be the most optimized way to arrange your office.
#9. Send surveys and feedback forms. It’s great to ask your colleagues what they think while you are having meetings but every now and then it is wise to send out a mass survey. If many people are addressing the same issues, then these matters may require immediate attention.
#10. Have brainstorming sessions and creative workshops. These gatherings are great because they are like productive team-building events. You can discuss your work and come up with great new ideas to try out. You can collectively think of creative solutions and drive innovation within your professional field.
#11. Set goals and expectations. It is important to tell people they are doing what they are doing. And how you are functioning as a team and company. That is why it is important to have goals and targets. This is an effective way to track progress.
#12. Use a project management system. If the team is getting bigger and bigger, then you can be resorting to spreadsheets anymore. You need a proper project managing system where everyone can report their work, keep track of progress, and have streamlined access to important information.
Written office communication tips
#1. Make your written communication concise and coherent. Be aware that a lot of things can go wrong with communication at the office when it comes to writing. Your colleagues can misinterpret your words very easily in case you are not clear enough.
#2. Mind your readers. When doing inter-office communication in writing, consider the person or group of people you are writing to. Are you able to speak their language, literally and figuratively? Can you speak in a manner that they would be able to understand?
#3. Don’t be an attention stealer. When using instant messaging for internal office communication, avoid saying “hi” just to steal their attention from whatever they are doing. Instead, formulate the entirety of your message, consider it carefully, and only then hit the send button. This way they won't have to wait for you while you are typing.
#4. Spare the send button. When chatting from a keyboard, use the “enter” button sparingly. Don't be that person who can't formulate a single sentence in one row. Make sure your chat bubbles show clear thoughts.
#5. Meet face to face. If the work chat takes more than five minutes. Consider a call or talk in person. Office internal communication has to be optimized but sometimes face to face is the best approach.
#6. Be respectful towards team chats. Don't turn them into online hangouts filled with memes and videos. Fire up the team chat only when you require the attention of the people in it on important matters that concern everyone.
#7. Use email groups. Does your company have such? Make sure every department has an email group and consider what teams should have their own as well.
#8. Use an email subject line tagging system. Good examples would be [Announcement], [Office matters], [Important], [Emergency], and [Project] but you can come up with tags that fit your needs perfectly.
#9. Write well-structured emails. What is this email about? What actions should be taken? Who is responsible for this? What is the deadline? Consider all possible angles and provide the necessary details.
#10. Short and optimized. Be concise in your written communication. Avoid flowery, figurative speech, and stick to the most important points.
#11. Appoint an email group sentinel. Every team should be able to respond to inquiries, adequately and timely. Establish a minimal response time practice.
#12. Use a ticket system. Consider integrating a ticket system into your email for work projects. This will provide an extra layer of organization and important tasks won't get lost in the void.
#13. Tech-stack your email. There are all kinds of extensions that can be integrated into email today such as grammar checkers and organizers. Consider your needs and research the products that can aid your work.
#14. Make sure everyone is in the loop. Share important updates and news with everyone in the company through email and include official documents. All employees should receive information about what’s going on.
#15. Establish a platform for anonymous feedback. This way your timid coworkers and even the haters will have a chance to be honest without fearing a backlash.
#16. Share inspiration. A good way to suggest a new best practice in the company is to share some sources or presentations about it. This way everyone will have the chance to see that other companies are doing it as well.
#17. Customer management. A CRM system is your best friend when you need to ensure proper communication with your clients. Not only that but it will save you time and possibly increase your profits.
#18. Hire a writer. You need at least one full-time copywriter in your company. Someone who knows how to write and convey the right message to the people you are trying to reach.
#19. Offer writing advice. Be mindful of your coworkers’ ability to communicate in written form and work closely with those who have room for improvement.
#20. Document everything. Important procedures, practices, and standards should be outlined in documents and shared with those who are to follow them. Internal company knowledge should be easily accessible by everyone.
Verbal communication workplace tips
#1. Mind your body language and tone. They matter just as much as what you are saying. Do your best to appear calm and collected. Take a confident posture and breathe deeply before you speak to project your voice.
#2. Don’t be an office distraction. The advantages of face-to-face communication in the workplace are undeniable but do not address a colleague verbally just because they sit near you in the office. Look at them, they are clearly in the middle of something. Instead, message or email them depending on how urgent the matter is. Never show up at somebody's desk out of nowhere to demand their attention. That's a good way to annoy anybody. Instead, message them and ask for a short meeting.
#3. Go outside. If you are talking to somebody in the office, consider taking the conversation outside where you won't be bothering anybody. Taking one on one meetings outside can be very refreshing and it allows people to speak freely. Go for it if you have the chance. Besides, it's actually a great way to take a break, yet still do some work However, stick to the point. What is this one on one meeting actually about? Don't get distracted. In fact, one on one meetings shouldn't take too long.
#4. Take notes. If you are discussing ideas, then maybe bring something to scribble on. Good ideas from brainstorming can easily be lost to the chaos of a workday. You might overestimate your memorization abilities.
#5. Know when to end it. If you see that the conversation is going nowhere, no decision is being made, and it is turning into a waste of time, then simply end the meeting in a polite manner.
#6. Meeting more than one person? Okay, then this is officially a group meeting. Which makes it much more complicated. Consider what people are essential to the meeting and invite only them.
#7. Group meetings require a moderator. A person in charge. Someone who knows what the meeting is about and to make sure that things will stay civil.
#8. Prepare in advance. Consider what you'll bring to the table. If you have no idea how to approach the meeting or what to expect, then take the time to explain how you feel about it in advance.
#9. Don’t interrupt. In a group meeting, let everyone speak their mind and don't interrupt a person while they are speaking. Be a good listener.
#10. Be respectful. No matter how stupid you think an idea is, don't mock the person it came from. Instead, kindly explain to them the reasons their idea won't work. Turn this into a learning experience for them.
#11. Praise your colleagues. When a team member suggests something great, take the opportunity to praise their genius on the spot in front of everyone. This can make their day and they will feel appreciated.
#12. Leave negative feedback for later. If a person is sabotaging the group meeting, resist the urge to scowl at them because this will only ruin the mood. Instead, take the attention of everyone with questions and statements, let those who have important things to say speak.
#13. Break the ice. If authority figures like department managers and directors attend the group meeting, they can make some of the newer colleagues a little dense.
#14. Should you stand up to authority figures at group meetings? It depends on how well you know the person you are dealing with. Is there a chance to shame them? Be careful with that and how you phrase your words.
#15. Avoid making a promise on the spot. Say that you have to check your schedule first. This will give you time to think and evaluate the situation.
#16. Don’t get defensive. If you are being criticized by your superiors (especially if it is publicly), don’t get defensive. Let them speak until you are given the word.
#17. Honest feedback, personal approach. When giving feedback to your subordinates, be honest but show them that you care personally about their performance. This way they will see that you are invested in their professional development.
Communication barriers in the workplace
Some factors can cause problems with communication in the workplace. They can be detrimental to the effective communication between colleagues. And this could lead to reduced productivity and conflict in the office. Therefore, stay vigilant for these communication barriers and try to resolve them as soon as you notice them
#1. Shyness and lack of confidence. Some team members are shy. Others simply lack the confidence to speak up. However, this doesn’t mean that they don’t have good ideas. So be mindful of your team members who are shy or lack the confidence to communicate more often.
#2. Lack of interest and dishonesty. Some team members who have lost the motivation to work will have their morale lowered. This leads to reduced interest in the work process and dishonest opinions. Some team members might begin to slack and do less work.
#3. Irregular work updates. When workers don’t receive important updates in a timely manner, they might become unmotivated and disinterested. Slow or infrequent updates on work projects can lower the productivity of people and lead to professional failures.
#4. Detrimental team culture. Some teams may exhibit a culture that is actually unhealthy for the company. For example, if some team members go out for drinks after work and use the time to discuss projects and make decisions, those who did not attend will be excluded from the decision-making process.
#5. Poor communication skills. Individuals with poor communication can cause trouble for their teams and departments. The inability to share information in accordance with established practices can be detrimental to productivity and sabotage projects.
#6. Wrong assumptions. Some team members might act after making wrong assumptions. This could be incredibly irresponsible and bring forth chaos and disorganization. It could cost the company money and slow down results.
#7. Informational overload. Sharing too much information can also be a problem. Workers will have no idea what is important and what they should focus on.
#8. Unclear chain of command. There is nothing worse for an office worker to receive mixed messages from their direct supervisor and the department manager. This could lower their productivity and lead to depression and job dissatisfaction.
#9. Workplace harassment. Harassment in the workplace is a serious issue. Both male and female workers can become victims of harassment in the office. This can lower their productivity, lead to depression and serious psychological issues.