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Communicating With Your Co-Workers

Updated on October 7, 2014

Open Communication Is A Must

We spend as much time with our co-workers as we do our own families. These are people we are around forty hours a week trying to accomplish a common goal. So why is it so difficult to communicate with them? I have put together some easy guidelines to follow which will help your office maintain good communication.

How to confront your co-worker with an issue…

Many times our co-workers are not aware they are doing something that we would consider a problem. It is important that they do their job correctly and accurately, and that sometimes means some constructive criticism to help them. Here are a few key elements to remember when approaching a co-worker about a problem:

  • Do not send emails to the whole department when a problem only concerns one co-worker. It may feel “safer” to direct an email to an entire department to address the issue with just one co-worker, however this method of communication has its drawbacks.
    • The person to whom you are actually aiming the message to does not realize he is the culprit. They scoff that they would never make such a mistake, yet they continue at it. By not communicating directly with the person, they may never get the hint that they are the guilty party.
    • Others who receive the email start to question the way they are doing the task. By sending a blanket email to the entire department, a few staff members will start to think they are doing something wrong. Since it is not known who is directly at fault, they may start to change the way they are accomplishing a task or worry that their job performance is poor.
    • Poor department morale. When mass emails are sent, everyone in the department sees something is going wrong. They may start to chatter about their co-workers’ abilities or the future of their positions.
    • When you talk with a co-worker, always use the sandwich method. The Sandwich Method would mean you starts off with a positive comment, then explain the problem (the negative), and end with a positive. Here’s an example:

Use the Sandwich Method
Use the Sandwich Method

The problem – your cubicle neighbor always schedules clients to come in at lunch time then goes to lunch anyway.

Positive – “It’s great that we are buddies and can always back each other up when one of us has to be out.”

Negative – “But it seems that your clients are always coming in during lunch hours when you are gone. It puts me in a bind to take care of them during lunch.”

Positive – “If you could schedule your client appointments after lunch it would help me a lot. Your clients will get the information they need and that will give me time to go to lunch and meet with my clients, too.”

  • Always offer a solution to the problem. Remember, your co-worker did not know they were doing anything wrong, so it will be difficult for them to come up with a solution. Have a solution or two ready to offer during your conversation. The solution is always a good final positive.

Be respectful and listen to your co-workers
Be respectful and listen to your co-workers

When You Are The Receiver

What about when you are the co-worker making the mistakes? When a co-worker comes to you with an issue or problem remember these things:

  • It is not easy for them to tell you the issue. No one has an easy time confronting people face to face. Remember that this conversation is probably difficult for the speaker and give him your full attention.
  • He has come to you personally and not tried to embarrass you in front of other co-workers. He could’ve sent the blanket email discussed earlier. Instead, he respected you enough to come to you face to face to talk about the problem. This saves you the embarrassment of other staff knowing the issues.
  • Whatever the issue might be, he thinks it is important enough to talk with you about. Even if you think the issue is minor or petty, obviously it is important to him, so listen and be polite in your response.
  • Explain that you did not realize what you were doing was causing a problem. Or explain the reason you were doing that particular task the way you were doing it.
  • Discuss the best possible solution to the problem. There is always more than one solution to any problem, and by working together you can both come up with the solution that is best.
  • Consider following up with them in a few days to make sure the solution is working. If the new plan is not working, think about another way to address this issue.


Every office has a Negative Nancy or a Negative Nate, but nobody wants to think it is him! By using these guidelines, you will lose that reputation at work and be the next Positive Polly or Paul!

Workplace Gossip
Workplace Gossip
  • Talk to people, not about them. If your issue is not important enough to go to the person and talk to him it is not important enough to tell everyone else. If you are negative, others around you will be negative.
  • If someone comes to you to talk about others, suggest they go talk to the person causing the issue. Do not participate in the conversation.
  • Most people think they are venting when they are really just complaining. A good way to know that you’re venting and not complaining is that you should feel much better once you’ve vented.
  • There is no clear goal to complaining. Complainers aren’t usually interested in finding a solution to what they’re whining about.
  • Take the 24 Hour Test - Can you go 24-hours without complaining or venting about anything?
    • Choose to think a different thought before speaking.
    • Choose to say something empowering or positive instead.
    • No one makes you complain – you choose to do that.


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