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The Importance of Workplace Communication

by Sarah Igram, Tero Consultant, Tero International

Are you helping to foster an environment of trust in your office?

In 2016, Karyn Twaronite published the results of a survey in the Harvard Business Review. Her company surveyed workers aged 19-68 in eight different countries. They found that fewer than half of those workers had a great deal of trust in their employers. In addition, 15% reported having very little or no trust in their employers.

With these results in mind, it's important to make sure your office is one where employees trust one another. And one of the best ways to build and maintain trust is to make sure you're communicating effectively in the workplace.

One of the first things you should consider when you're evaluating communication in your workplace is that not everybody has the same style of communication. In fact, according to Forbes contributor and New York Times bestselling author Mark Murphy, there are actually four different styles of communicators:

Analytical communicators love all things related to numbers. When they talk, they tend to reference data and statistics. They're more logical than emotional, and can become irritated when people they're communicating with either are not specific or share too many personal anecdotes.

Functional communicators talk in detail. They like to walk through every detail of a plan or project to ensure no one misses anything. These communicators are great at making sure everyone is on the same page but sometimes risk losing their audience's attention.

Intuitive communicators are big-picture thinkers. They prefer to get right to the point, rather than spending too much time communicating the particulars. Because they don't get bogged down in details, they're great at thinking outside the box, but they can sometimes lose patience or focus in meetings that require going far into detail.

Personal communicators value making emotional connections with others. They're generally good listeners and are interested in how their colleagues feel. They're also emotionally tuned in and great at resolving conflicts. They may, however, clash with analytical communicators, who see them as too touchy-feely.

You may notice that one or two of those styles describe you well. But in the next few days in the office, you should also think about which styles best describe your coworkers. Knowing which communication styles your coworkers prefer will help you communicate effectively with them. Is your supervisor an analytical communicator? Make sure to include hard data in your next meeting with them. Do you have a colleague who is a functional communicator? Be prepared to explain their role in a project step-by-step.

A few other important things you can do to improve your communication include:

Listen. No, really listen. You shouldn't just be hearing what another person is saying; you should make sure you understand. One way to do this is to paraphrase: repeat what someone just told you back to them, and make sure you have the information right.

Seek feedback, and encourage others to do the same. It isn't just feedback from superiors that's important. You should also seek feedback from other colleagues whose opinions you value. Ask for input on how well you deal with change, what goals you've reached or exceeded, and how well you use available resources. This will help those you speak with see that their feedback matters to you, and it will keep you aware of what you're doing well and what you can improve.

Use inclusive language. Doing this will help you avoid communication mishaps. Stay away from gender-specific language, and make sure you know and use your colleagues' preferred pronouns. Keep your communication free of assumptions, and stay away from language that could be perceived as ableist.

Know when to use different forms of communication. Chapter 64 of Your Invisible Toolbox describes the best way to deliver both good news and bad news. It's generally a good idea to put good news, such as praise and compliments, in writing. This way, your recipient can revisit and document what you've written. On the other hand, bad news, such as negative feedback, should be delivered in person. This will allow a chance for discussion and eye contact.

By bettering your communication, you will keep your colleagues on the same page about important matters, and you will help create a more transparent, trusting work environment.



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