Soft skills in the workplace are more important than ever. We often find ourselves working with or managing people from very different backgrounds. While this may be a wonderful opportunity, it also might come with some workplace conflict. The fastest way to turn these conflicts into workplace solutions is through good communication. This is where soft skills like communication, respect, and empathy come into play.
What is Workplace Communication?
Workplace communication is the way employees express themselves and exchange information with each other whether in person or virtually. Communication is a vital part of a successful business operation, allowing people to effectively and efficiently work together.
Types of Workplace Communication
At any given workday, we may be communicating in person or virtually with our colleagues. These forms of communication involve verbal communication (our word choice, tone of voice), body language, written communication, phone calls, or video conferencing.
Each of these presents its own advantages and disadvantages. For instance, while online communication has bridged gaps and dramatically improved accessibility, it is still less effective than in-person communication in many ways. We are less able to decipher the tone of voice or the mannerisms and facial expressions of our correspondence, compared to real-life face-to-face interactions. Still, it is important to make the best use of all these available resources to maximize workplace communication.
How to Have Difficult Conversations at Work
Workplace communication can suffer when individuals are not clear or honest about their thoughts. It is essential to be as clear as possible at all times in your work-related communications.
One of the workplace conflict examples may be nepotism in the workplace. This is a universal problem and may present itself in many different forms. If you think there is nepotism at your workplace, you should clearly lay out some examples of unfair treatment. Once you have listed some examples of these you should identify the best person to talk to about this issue. This may be an HR professional whose job is to make sure there is an equitable and fair work environment. If no such role is allocated, try to determine who would be best equipped to deal with this situation. It may be a manager or a team lead. Keep in mind that whoever you will talk to should be in a position that is appropriately ranked in relation to the person in question.
How to Improve Workplace Communication
Here are some of the basic strategies to keep in mind to improve communication in the workplace.
1) Clear Expectations and Feedback
Clarity cannot be emphasized enough when it comes to good communication. Try to be clear in your communication, write things down in emails or messages. Be succinct, follow up and ask questions and ask for confirmation to make sure that you got your message across or that you understood correctly. Make sure that you know what is expected of you or that you give clear directions for what you are expecting your team to do.
2) Collective & Open vs Personalized & Confidential
Something to consider is how to strike a balance between collective and open communication and personalized & confidential communication. Especially as a manager or team lead you need to allow for both of these kinds of communication. Depending on the situation or the personality of the people in your team one may be better than the other for some people or some situations. Transparency is important with regards to matters that concern everybody. However, if you make room regularly for personalized and confidential communication (that is appropriately arranged for a workplace setting) you might be surprised to discover that some people are a lot more willing to share and open up about problems they face in the workplace.
3) Regular One-on-One’s
If you run a team, regardless of how small, it is important to set aside some time for regular one-on-one meetings with your team members. These can be quick 10-15 min conversations every week or every other week depending on the size of your team or the nature of these conversations. These should be times for mostly listening on your end. You can give feedback when you have something constructive and specific to say but do not feel like you have to do the talking. Think of a few open-ended questions to ask like how is everything going with your project, is everything going well for you in the team, is there anything you need from me, etc.
4) Weekly Team Check-Ins
Just like one-on-one meetings, teams need to meet at regular intervals altogether. These meetings are good for making sure everyone is on the same page about what is going on. They are also good for collectively planning the time until the next meeting (a week, a month, etc) and keeping each other accountable. Everyone can go around and talk about what they did since the last meeting and talk about what they are planning to do until the next meeting. These meetings are also good for brainstorming, sharing any problems or roadblocks one has with their team to think of solutions together.
Overall remember clarity is the most important asset in workplace communication. Try to strike a balance between being honest and being kind. Honesty does not have to equate to bluntness. You can have tact without watering things down. Kindness and good working relationships can go a long way in getting things done.