5 Tips for Improving Communication in the Workplace

Improving communication in the workplace is crucial. There are so many areas in which communication comes into play in our work systems.

  • Executives must effectively receive feedback from throughout their organizations and transmit the desired vision and values back to them.
  • Relationships must be fostered and maintained with shareholders, suppliers and customers.
  • Managers must become familiar with the strengths, weaknesses and preferences of their workers and guide them with clear directives.
  • Co-workers must coordinate and cooperate to best carry out their respective duties.

How can we ensure that all of these communication channels – and the many others not even mentioned – operate as smoothly and successfully as possible? Here are some principles that apply to optimizing communication in the workplace in just about any industry or setting.

Account for Diversity

We live in a globalized world and economy. Many, if not most, workplaces will consist of people from different nations, cultures, religions and even languages. While it’s impossible to tailor every communication to every individual difference, a general mindset of tolerance and respect and an understanding that some clarification will be necessary from time to time can go a long way.

Educate about Personality Types

There are a number of different systems for assessing personality types, including the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and the Enneagram. Understanding the nature of these different types and knowing who identifies as which type can do wonders to bring about greater understanding. When people recognize their own type and that of the person with whom they are communicating, they are more able to bridge gaps that would otherwise lead to distractions or develop into frustrating disagreements.

Consider using books such as Please Understand Me II: Temperament, Character, Intelligence and Personality Types: Using the Enneagram for Self-Discovery as guides or hiring an expert on the topic to work with your organization.

Teach Conflict Resolution Skills

The most difficult communications in most workplaces come at points of potential conflict. These points will inevitably arise. If handled poorly, they can be disastrous. If handled well, they are opportunities for strengthening relationships and the organization as a whole.

There are experts who have studied how to have difficult conversations in the most effective ways. Set up retreats or seminars to focus on this extremely important topic. There are great books, like Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High and Crucial Confrontations, that you can use as guides. Or you might even consider hiring a consultant to come in and do hands-on trainings.

As is also true of learning about personality types, this is one of those topics that, when covered well, people find highly valuable because it can enhance their lives not only in regards to effective communication in the workplace, but in all areas.

Focus on Key Values

In any organization, there are hundreds or thousands of communications that take place every day. But there are really only a handful of truly core principles and values that underlie the organization. Make sure that, at the very least, everyone in the organization is aware of what these few most important ideas are. Communicate these to them in the most concentrated way regularly so that they can be communicating them in their work with each other and the public.

Set Up Well-Functioning Communication Systems

Systems, when used regularly and appropriately, keep various functions operating at the highest level. Communications are no exception. Communication systems that you might want to set up and maintain include:

  • Technological systems – Use up-to-date computer, Internet, telephone and voice mail, public announcement, audiovisual and other information technology hardware and software systems that facilitate communication tasks.
  • Time Management systems – Regularly scheduled times for meetings or just check-ins can assure that people are kept on the same page and any potential issues are addressed proactively.
  • Documentation Systems – Using standardized forms for documenting various procedures can help make sure that all necessary information about particular processes is communicated throughout the organization. These documentation systems should also be kept updated. Forms should be reviewed regularly and changed when necessary. And paper systems can be upgraded to electronic systems.

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