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How to Improve Communication at Work
One of the most crucial aspects of working in business is communication. Being able to communicate effectively with your team and partners means that any issues are solved quickly, projects are run efficiently and that everyone is on the same page when it comes to your vision. Use these 12 tips to improve your communication skills in business and have a happy and healthy office.
1. Handle conflicts head-on
In any working environment there is bound to be conflicts from time to time. Avoid small conflicts from blowing up into major problems by tackling them head-on. Let employees know that you have an open door policy and that they can come to you with any issues. When you respond to these issues, be sure to do so with a non-judgemental approach. Ask questions and listen intently so that you fully understand how each person feels and can help to find a resolution. It’s nearly impossible to avoid office fights completely, so make sure you have a process in place for tackling them, employees need to know that they can talk to upper management about simple issues. Never brush off an employee’s complaint as unimportant, if company policies are to blame for the issues, go to management and suggest some permanent solutions.
2. Speak directly
Technology has allowed us to work more effectively and more efficiently, but we have become completely dependent on our emails and smart phones – often to the point that we would rather send an email to someone in the same office, rather than just talking to them directly. The downside of this is that emails can often be misconstrued. Take back valuable working relationships by speaking face to face with people whenever you can. It helps to build trust and ensures you communicate what you’re trying to say properly.
3. Respect differences
Nowadays companies can function across the globe, and with the ease of immigration many businesses now also hire skilled foreign employees in their local offices. Ensure that your office is culturally sensitive to all of your employees. This means being conscious of the way different nationalities interpret words and gestures as well as providing kosher or vegetarian options and letting employees time off for religious holidays.
4. Give helpful feedback
No employee wants to exist in a vacuum. Whether they’re working late nights to get a project done on time or aren’t putting in enough effort, your employees need to know that you recognise them. Do this by holding regular feedback meetings, or if you want to save time, rather send an e-mail, call or give a brief status update every few days. When you give feedback, make sure that it is detailed. One word feedback isn’t helpful and can leave your employee feeling like you don’t care. If there is a problem, try offer solutions. Remember to give positive feedback too. Praise and recognition make employees feel important, which motivates them work harder and helps with their overall happiness within the company.
5. Don’t micromanage
When you hired your staff, presumably you hired them because you felt they were skilled enough to complete their duties, meaning there is no need to micro-manage. Micro-managing staff and hanging around their desks to check they are doing their work the way you want leaves them feeling incompetent, insecure and unmotivated. Leave them to do the work you hired them to do and get them feeling more invested in the projects they are working on, which encourages innovation and job satisfaction. To keep track of their progress, rather hold weekly status updates than hovering over them.
6. Remove your emotions from equation
It is often difficult to be professional at the office when there are so many different personalities in one space. When an employee is doing something that upsets you, try not to get emotional. Rather take a deep breath and try to respond calmly. Be sure not to make your response personal. Instead of saying ‘you did a horrible job!’, rather say ‘here are some pointers on the things I need you to add to your work’. This way you don’t pit yourself against each other. Remember that you are on the same team, not on enemy sides.
7. Actually listen
Hearing your employees out is the first step to communicating effectively. When you’re talking about a project or issue with one of your workers, keep a mental checklist of the points they are making, or if you’re prone to forgetting, rather write them down to address later. If a worker recognises that you are paying attention, they are much more likely to listen attentively to you as well. Hold off responding until they are done and don’t interrupt. When they are done speaking, paraphrase what they have said and ask them to clarify anything you missed. This ensures you’re both on the same page.
8. Be consistent and clear
One of the most important communication tools is consistency. Be clear and purposeful when you speak and make sure that your words and actions are consistent. Saying one thing and doing another only sends mixed signals to your employees.
9. Ask questions
Asking questions opens up dialog in the office. Be sure to use the right type of questions for the right situations to get out of them what you need. Always avoid loaded questions like ‘what did you expect?’. These are an instant conversation killer. Use open-ended questions to expand the scope of discussion and set expectations for a meeting and use close-ended questions for get hold of specific information and regain control of a conversation if a worker is going on a rant.
10. Always stay positive
No matter what the conversation is about, try to keep it positive. If you have to give negative feedback, do it in constructive way. Try to focus on behaviour and performance rather than the employee or his character.
11. Write it down
With a million and one things we have on our plate at any given time, it is nearly impossible to remember a verbal order nowadays. If you have a project that needs to be done, be sure to let your staff know with a written brief. Make sure that anything important is written down so that anyone can refer back to it when they need it and you can communicate the task properly.
12. Do team building
Team building isn’t just one of those buzz words that people use to waste company money. Effective team building activities can not only increase overall happiness in the workplace but also improves employee engagement and their methods of communicating with one another. This again will help workers feel open to talking and will help with performance overall
Bryony Bower at MediaVision
+44 (0) 208 481 0193