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Effective communication at the workplace
Why the need to be an effective communicator?
Most people undermine the importance of communication. What one person says and what the other person understands based on what they heard could be a world apart. It is true. Sometimes such communication gap can cause a lot of unnecessary confusion and loss of value as well as time. Which email was meant as a FYI-‘for your information’ versus which email meant ‘please take care of it’, sometimes is all a matter of perception. But in a fast paced, competitive work environment and especially when you work with ‘difficult’ clients, communication can make or break a deal. One should never leave such situations to perceptions; it is always advisable to be precise and clear when communicating.
Here are some tips on how to be an effective communicator at your workplace.
To the point
- First rule of communication, irrespective of mode of communication is – be to the point. Don’t beat around the bush. Nobody really has the time. So don’t write long emails, don’t make unnecessary polite conversation- just say what you need to , to get the job done. Without sounding curt, say a quick Hi and state what you need. Example: Hi- checking on the status of invoices from XYZ. Have they all been cleared? Most people have a very low attention span, if you write emails longer than 5-6 lines, you are bound to lose the focus of the person after those 5-6 lines.
Use simple and straightforward sentences
- Secondly- don’t use flowery language or complex sentences. If you work in a global workplace and have counterparts around the world, remember that English is not everyone’s first language. Be respectful about the same and use simple sentences. If in a verbal conversation, remember to speak slowly. Sometimes accents play a huge part in causing wrong communication, hence be cautious on the same.
No open ended statements
- Thirdly- don’t give directions that are open to interpretation. Give precise and complete instructions for tasks. It might take a bit of more effort, but well thought out instructions to your team will prevent back and forth questioning and clarification of doubts. Example: Team- please complete your time sheet versus- ‘Team- please complete and submit your timesheet by noon today, else it won’t get approved’. The second statement will leave no doubt as to what needs to be done and by when and also what will be the consequences if it is not done! (you won’t get paid this week!)
Email versus talking in person or on the phone
- Avoid email communication where picking up the phone is faster and effective. Often you will come across employees who email you questions which have one line responses. Yes, sometimes we all are juggling a lot of things and a quick email is a good way of multi tasking. But remember that human beings are social animals. An effective manager will walk up to his team member to ask a question or call him. This way you rank higher on inter personal skills and connect as well as get immediate responses to your questions.
Office chat tool
- Most corporate around the world use an office chat tool besides email. It may be Google chat or Lotus Sametime or Microsoft office communicator. But it is definitely a great tool to use for live communication where email has a lag. If you have this tool in your workplace, then use it! Get technology savvy. Use the office chat tool to relay information where speed and quick responses are imperative. There will always be folks who are never ‘available’ on the office chat tool or are always ‘away’ or have the ‘do not disturb’ status. Remember communication is the lifeline of work progress. Make yourself available and use different status options on the office chat tool judiciously and where appropriate. Some managers use this as a way to check on their remote employees and their availability too.
To and CC fields in an email
- When using email as the mode of communication, understand what it means to put folks in the ‘To’ field versus putting them in ‘CC’. Some people don’t understand the simple meaning of the primary email receivers versus those who have been carbon copied on the email for informational purposes only. Make sure you exercise these options appropriately to get the right people to respond to your emails.
Relevant subject lines on emails
- Make sure the subject line on your emails is relevant. Often employees pick up old emails received from X to ask a question back to X on something totally different and don’t change the subject line. An effective communicator never does this.
Be culturally aware of your work counterparts
- Be culturally aware and be careful when making statements of a non professional nature when working with multi cultural colleagues. You don’t want to unintentionally hurt anybody’s feelings and make it the cause for troubled work interactions in future.
Communication is key
To be successful at work, one has to interact with teams and teams consist of people. Communication is your strong hand for getting people to do what you need for the tasks to be accomplished. Be good at it!
I recall once we had some work counterparts flying in for a business meeting from another country. They sent an email ending with “see you when I get there”. Now the recipient in the other country was confused and thought he was expected to be at the airport to receive this employee. Who knows? So again, be an effective communicator and make everybody’s life easy around you!