Santiago, a manager with five years under his belt, sometimes finds it difficult to express himself clearly with new hires. Without direct, honest communication in the workplace, though, the client isn’t served, plans get sidetracked, and you may have a whole class of new hires lacking a clear idea of Santiago’s plans, values, or requirements.
Why is communication important in the workplace? As a manager, you have detailed action plans and a theory of what it will take to achieve your company’s goals. However, if you can’t effectively communicate that vision (and how to execute it), it won’t happen. You can’t do it all by yourself no matter how great your vision is: communicating effectively with your coworkers is what makes the difference.
Workplace communication is key to successful business because every act in the sales funnel involves communicating something: viability, value, transactions and deals, and brand awareness all require different kinds of communication.
Let’s look at why communication is so vital to success, and how to cultivate a culture of open communication in your workplace.
Poor Communication at Work
The pitfalls of poor workplace communication are many, but generally fall into three categories, which are defined by the workflow and their consequences.
- Employees may be confused about your expectations as a manager.
- Tasks may be left undone or done incorrectly, requiring more time to correct.
- Project or client needs may not be achieved, in whole or in part.
When you aren’t clear about your expectations, you’re setting your employees up for failure. They may have no idea—or even worse, the wrong idea—of what you’re really looking for and may start filling in the blanks themselves rather than asking for further clarification. When it’s time for professional reviews or other managerial development, ugly surprises can arise because you and your employee have been operating from different narratives.
When tasks aren’t clearly delineated, delegated, or described, the employee has a choice: take even longer to do the task due to second-guessing, risk doing the task incorrectly, or perhaps leave it undone altogether, since you didn’t underscore its importance.
These mishaps of communication in the workplace have a way of accumulating faster than you might think, as tasks stack up. And when done incorrectly, you are on the hook to repair or finish the task if possible, or if not possible, to make other arrangements.
Project management involves, in large part, breaking down requirements from the project or client into actionable pieces—then making sure those pieces are accomplished. When you don’t communicate these steps and tasks clearly, relating them back to the main project goals when possible, you risk disappointing the client or your own employer by missing deadlines, deliverables, or milestones.
All three cases, from expectation to result, can be adversely affected by poor communication.
Cultivating Communication in the Workplace
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to successful workplace communication. Always consider the specific situation, the style of each individual or team, and other context. The following general guidelines will help you be a more effective leader through better communication:
- Speak clearly, and to the point. Be efficient with your language, because unnecessary speech risks misunderstanding, lack of engagement, or even failure to perform. If you have trouble being clear about what you’re asking for, consider that you may be unclear on what you want.
- Be positive. Negative things about others in your profession (or organization) don’t help your cause. Focus on encouragement and positivity to get the most out of your team. People may forget what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel.
- Organize your thoughts. Finish each thought before you move on, to avoid confusion. Communication in the workplace means keeping your audience’s journey in mind. Consider using outlines to stay on task.
- Don’t interrupt. People who are cut off may be less inclined to contribute in the future, and they will most certainly tune you out. You’re indicating that what they’re saying is not important—that they are not important.
- Respect their time. Is it really efficient to call a meeting every time you need to communicate with your staff? An instant message or email is almost always more effective.
- Stick to the facts. Back up your ideas and plans with hard facts. You may want to summarize your expertise in a given field, or share the research or experience behind your ideas, but be aware of the rules above and don’t waste time making yourself feel special.
As you can see, good communication in the workplace simply involves being respectful and clear, and always listening.
Make Workplace Communication Work for You
If you don’t figure out how to communicate effectively with colleagues, your best plans probably won’t take flight. Want to learn more about workplace communication and other strategies for managerial success? We can help. See Monster for information on the latest hiring trends, managerial strategies, recruiting tips, and more.