The key to a healthy work environment is effective communication. For a team to run smoothly, everyone should be up to date on important tasks and events and should clearly understand what their roles are. Whether you are running a business or starting an entry-level position, good communication is essential to any and every type of workplace. If you want to improve work quality and employee engagement, communication is one of the best (and least costly) ways to do just that. In order to build positive work relationships and increase overall morale and engagement in the workplace, these are helpful dos and don’ts for improving your communication skills.
Do: Have a strong communication plan.
Whether you are planning a meeting or wish to discuss something with your management team, have a clear message thought out beforehand. If you walk into a meeting without a plan, conversations tend to get derailed and important pieces of information are left behind. Be clear with your message, be concise and avoid jargon. Keep your topic of the discussion precise and be sure to have your research done beforehand.
Don’t: Depend on technology for communication.
With so many new advancements in technology, it seems like there’s a new communication tool popping up every single day. These tools we use (e-mail, Slack, texting, other workplace messengers, etc.) make communication easier than ever, but at the same time, they can also disconnect us. It can feel alienating if everyone is just messaging one another from their computers or phones. That is why face-to-face communication is vital to any work environment. There needs to be a balance. When you’re communicating with your team face-to-face, it not only allows you to gain a better understanding of who you work with and who they are personally, but it improves workplace quality and overall engagement for your staff.
Do: Understand your audience
When you speak face-to-face with your co-workers or employees, it also allows you to find out what methods work best when teaching them a new skill. Everyone learns differently and especially as a team leader, it’s important to understand that. You’re going to have employees who learn at different paces. Or you’re going to have employees who learn new tasks using visual examples or step-by-step directions. Take the time to get to know your team and be sure not to leave anyone out. Give people a purpose. When you trust employees with big roles, it can improve morale and increase engagement.
Don’t: Use negative body language
People can say a lot without saying anything at all. Before humans even developed language, we used actions to describe how we felt or what we were doing. Think carefully about your posture and what you’re doing with your body right now. As an example, if you’re currently hunched over or standing with your arms crossed or legs crossed, it shows that you’re making your body smaller which shows a lack of confidence or openness about yourself. When you’re more ‘open’ with your body language, you can exude more confidence and a willingness to be more open and approachable.
Do: Be consistent
It can be difficult to build relationships in the workplace if you’re inconsistent every day. If one day you’re coming into work happy and motivated and the next day you’re disconnected and closed off, it’s going to make communication more difficult for you. Everyone has something going on in their lives that causes them stress; that’s just the world we live in now. However, at work, it’s important to set clear boundaries between your work life and your personal life. Do not let your personal matters affect your work life. If there is something emotionally or physically major that is affecting your work, take some time off work to recharge. But if it’s one of life’s smaller inconveniences, leave that stress at the door before walking into work.
Again, be mindful of what you’re sharing about your personal life at work. It’s obviously important to share a little bit about yourself and have some fun when you’re at work, but these conversations should be kept to a minimum. Be extremely careful to watch your language. What might have been acceptable in past workplaces you’ve been in, may not be acceptable in your new one. Also, be cautious with what information you share at work. Whether it be personal family matters or gossip about another co-worker, that information shouldn’t be shared with your teammates. Work friends and your regular friends normally have two very different places in your life so be mindful of what you share to avoid future conflicts.
Do: Listen actively
How you listen is just as important with how you communicate. Passive listeners may hear what is being said, but they aren’t fully engaged with the conversation and can miss important details. When someone is listening actively, they are fully engaged with what is being said and will use paraphrasing to clarify or ask questions to discuss certain details further to better understand what is being said. The benefits of active listening include the reduced risk of misunderstanding, increased productivity and the ability to build stronger workplace relationships. Tying back to the importance of body language, active listening involves making eye contact with the person you are speaking with and giving them your full attention. Nodding occasionally and using a more ‘open’ body language shows you are engaged with what they are talking about and ‘open’ to the information they are sharing with you.
Don’t: Be afraid to ask questions.
Especially when you are starting a new job, it’s a common misconception that if we ask too many questions we may come off as unknowledgeable. If there is something you don’t understand, there’s a good chance that there is someone else in the room who feels the same way, so don’t feel like you need to withhold your questions to avoid looking dumb. Asking more questions shows you are engaged and want to learn more about what is being discussed.
Do: Give feedback
There is always room for improvement, and the best way to see better results is to give your team feedback. Whether it’s positive reinforcement, critique (or opportunities) for them to improve their work. It’s important to consistently give your team the recognition they need or deserve. Whether you notice another co-worker’s amazing work on their last project and give them a quick high five or you’re an employer discussing with an employee a recent mistake they made and how to fix it, feedback is a great way to improve work ethic and workplace quality.
Don’t: Have one sided conversations.
Always leave room for discussion. Whether it’s a meeting or a quick conversation in the hallway, give your team some time to ask you questions to better understand what you’re trying to say. Always be prepared for questions by doing research beforehand, but if there’s a question or point brought up during the discussion that you don’t know the answer to, make a note of it and let them know you will learn more about it and get back to them. Take small breaks during your conversation or meeting and ask if anything needs clarifying before continuing. Also, be sure to not interrupt people while they speak and give them a chance to say what they need to say.
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