Friday, October 1, 2010

Strengthening Communication to Enhance Your Workplace

Communication is one of the basic functions within an organization and its importance can hardly be overemphasized. Effective communication is a requirement for successful businesses, yet poor communication remains a barrier for many. In fact, poor communication accounts for a multitude of workplace difficulties including interpersonal conflict, poor productivity, legal exposure, low morale, high turnover and wasted time, efforts, and money.

Communication problems that develop in an organization are almost always solvable. Despite the fact that not everyone is born a great communicator, most of us are capable of learning. Here are some basic tips that will help strengthen relationships and enhance communication in your workplace:
1.  Personal contact is important.
Face-to-face interaction enhances communication by motivating people to observe non-verbal cues. By simply observing a listener’s body language, one can often determine whether the message has been interpreted as it was intended to be. If personal contact is not possible, the next best way to connect is by talking on the telephone.

2.  Give clear instructions.
You will save time in the long run by taking the time to provide clear instructions that are easy to understand. Allow time for people to ask for clarification or invite them to do so. In a workplace setting, it is much more productive when the task is understood from the beginning rather than having to go back and redo a task because it was done incorrectly the first time.

3.  Be clear and consistent.
Consistent communication patterns help managers and employees build trust in one another. Ask reflexive questions such as, “Did I explain this clearly?” on a consistent basis to ensure that others clearly understand what you have said.

4.  Be constructive, not critical.
Supervisors, bosses, and co-workers can all too often become overly critical to those who try to organize their work or solve workplace problems. People who have been severely criticized often become reluctant to organize or resolve anything again. On the other hand, offering constructive feedback empowers employees to make more productive and effective decisions in the future.

5. Be an active listener.
Active listening can be difficult for some people but its utility in the workplace is essential as it provides a foundation of trust and respect. When someone is speaking to you, be aware of your nonverbal behaviour and the message that this behaviour may be conveying to the speaker. To illustrate active listening, try paraphrasing or summarizing the message back to the speaker to show that you have received their message. If the message is unclear, ask questions for clarification.

6. Pay attention to non-verbal communication.
Sometimes our actions speak louder than words. Non-verbal communication can be quite powerful and it is important that we understand how we communicate nonverbally, as well as how to correctly interpret the nonverbal messages that others send to us. When communicating electronically, be aware of how you deliver the message—sometimes the way a message is worded can be interpreted in a much different manner than it was intended it be. Sometimes punctuation, or lack thereof, can relay a completely different message than was intended. Simply keep in mind the fact that the receiver may be unable to detect sarcastic or humorous remarks due to a lack of verbal cues such as pitch or tone of voice.

7. Think before you speak.
Effective communication involves planning what you want to say before actually saying it. This helps to enhance the communication process so that you are able to communicate your message exactly as it was intend to be received.

8. Provide meaningful feedback.
While the annual performance evaluation is a valuable communication tool, do not limit feedback to a once-a-year event. Most people do not like surprises and would prefer an opportunity to improve throughout the year as well. Try to provide continual, constructive, on-the-job evaluations, focusing on situations as they arise so they are still fresh in everyone’s mind. Remember to highlight both the positive and the negative. You may also want to consider soliciting feedback from employees to determine if there is anything that you can do as a manager to make their jobs easier or to improve the overall performance of the department.

9. Be available.
It is easy as a manager to get so caught up in your own heavy workload that you forget that an important part of being a manager involves managing your employees. As a manager, it is critical that you make time for your employees. Although it is totally appropriate to inform employees of your time pressures, it is extremely important that during a meeting with an employee or group of employees, you offer your complete undivided attention to convey to your employees that you consider their concerns a priority.

Regardless of the industry or the organization, every workplace will consist of people with different needs and personalities whom will respond differently to various communication styles utilized throughout the workplace. In order to enhance communication in your workplace, you must experiment with different approaches and styles to determine best communication practises within the organization. Incorporating the nine tips identified above will assist your organization to develop more effective communication skills which will enhance the functioning and overall success of the business.

de Janasz, Suzanne C. et al. (2009). Interpersonal skills in organizations Canadian edition. Toronto, ON: McGraw-Hill Ryerson.

Lussier, Robert. (2009). Organizational Structure and Communication. In Human Relations in Organizations: Applications and Skill Building (Pp. 188-234). United Kingdom: McGraw-Hill.

No comments:

Post a Comment