Communication at work: What do you have to pay attention to?

Communication in professional life is important, nobody would disagree with that. However, many people limit their efforts to maintaining good communication with customers only, forgetting to focus also on workplace relationships. While focusing on customers is important, it is of little use if things are not going well in one’s own company. That’s why communication in the workplace is so crucial: When colleagues deal with each other in the right way and speak openly to one another, the whole company can move forward. How can you ensure proper communication in the workplace?

Advantages of good communication at work

Communication in the workplace affects various aspects of work life. On the one hand, you have to consider who is talking to whom: Does communication at work take place at the same level, i.e. between colleagues of the same rank or is there a hierarchical gradient? On the other hand, it must be viewed in the macroscopic context of the entire company, as well as in relation to each individual.

Conflict avoidance

If communication between colleagues or between superiors and employees is poor, problems can quickly arise. However, if you take the time to have discussions and communicate openly with each other, misunderstandings and the resulting conflicts cannot arise in the first place. At the same time, if one side expresses themselves unclearly, without necessarily having bad intentions or disinterest behind this, it can still result in conflict. In these situations, more workplace communication can help. Communication training can help people understand each other better.

However, conflicts do not just arise from factual issues. Emotions are often behind problems in the workplace. Processing and verbalizing negative emotions before they grow into real conflicts is part of a positive workplace communication strategy. If an employee has the feeling that others – particularly superiors – are listening to them and making an effort to understand them, it may help stop the issue from smoldering.

Employee motivation

Conversations strengthen interpersonal ties. A good bond within the team in turn provides more motivation for employees. If an employee perceives their team as an important factor in the work, rather than seeing themselves as a lone fighter, willingness to develop as a team also increases. This works in a small working group as well as in the context of the entire company. If everyone communicates openly with each other, there are no interpersonal barriers and everyone is headed in the same direction. In this kind of atmosphere, everyone is willing to give more.

Productivity

If superiors take the time to deal with each individual employee, they can get a better understanding of individual strengths and weaknesses. In this way, tasks can be better distributed, further training can be used in a targeted manner and talents can be promoted. Teams can also be put together in a more effective way if the individual employees know each other well through proper workplace communication. Different individuals with different abilities can therefore be put together in a coherent way. In the medium term, these adjustments improve the productivity of the entire company.

Another factor in the context of productivity is creativity: Conversations fuel new ideas. Creativity can unfold in an open and positive atmosphere with regular conversations. With fresh ideas, tasks can be completed better and faster. This does not only apply within a team, but also the exchange of ideas between different departments up to the management level, and can bring the company forward. Outsiders especially often have innovative ideas.

Career prospects

While the points mentioned above are primarily advantages for the company, the individual employee can also benefit from greater communication skills. If you communicate correctly in your job and know how to express yourself correctly, this can have advantages for your career. Especially if you want to take up leading positions, employers pay attention to communicative abilities, because with a hierarchical structure, unpleasant topics sometimes must be brought up.

Those who generally avoid these situations or do not react constructively during the discussions do not show leadership qualities. If, on the other hand, you demonstrate good communication skills in the workplace, you will be more likely to be promoted.

Fact

Communication ability is a characteristic of soft skills. Hard skills on the other hand, are qualifications that can be acquired.

Correct communication in the workplace: How does it work?

What does good workplace communication look like? A lot has to do with openness towards one another, but also with expressing oneself correctly. Less obvious factors also play a role.

Fact

Not communicating is not really possible. Even if someone doesn’t speak, they can send out signals that are (often negatively) received by others. Therefore, it is all the more important to think about good communication at work.

Open-mindedness

Open interaction is the be-all and end-all of a positive communication culture. Conflicts can only be resolved quickly if employees and superiors treat each other honestly. Far too often, however, curiosity, gossip or even bullying are the order of the day in the workplace. People talk about colleagues behind their backs or deliberately withhold information in order to gain an advantage. However, this does not result in productive teams. Instead, you should get problems you have with each other out of the way as quickly as possible.

Openness also plays an important role in discussion culture: Constructive discussions can only develop if one recognizes the other’s opinion as a possible solution. If you stubbornly stick to your own point of view, projects will inevitably come to a standstill. If, on the other hand, all sides deal openly with each other’s ideas, they can fuel each other and strengthen both creativity and productivity.

Clarity

Poor communication at work does not always have to do with unwillingness or bad intentions, instead with inability. If the necessary clarity is lacking in conversations, misunderstandings quickly arise or misinformation is spread. It is therefore important to pay attention to clear wording. Whether an email at a meeting or during a conversation at the coffee machine: Hiding your intent behind empty words is always counterproductive. Complicated topics in the work context need particularly detailed explanations so that they do not cause disinterest and incomprehension for the other person. Above all, this means that you have to take your time. Also repetitions and inquiries help to make complex facts clearer.

Concerns must be expressed by both employees and employers, either in written or spoken form. An inconsiderate tone can quickly be misinterpreted. You unintentionally disagree with your colleagues. Here, too, clear language helps to avoid conflicts and to work more purposefully.

Respect

Friendliness, courtesy and mutual respect – whether among peers or between superiors and subordinates: You should always meet at eye level. There is nothing that creates a bad atmosphere quicker than a lack of respect. Many people in management positions tend to adopt an aggressive leadership style to underpin their authority. Another strategy is more successful: When managers treat their employees with respect, they are much happier at work and more willing to go above and beyond their required duties. However, respect goes both ways. Employees should also strive to treat their superiors with respect.

Listen

Communication in the workplace is not a one-way street: Anyone who talks should also be listened to. The ability to listen to others is just as important as a clear way of expressing oneself. This is similar to openness, but listening goes even further. Leave time for each person to make their contribution in professional life and use empathy and the ability to really listen and respond to what has been said. That is different to just sitting there quietly while someone else is talking. Understanding is the decisive factor – both in professional and emotional conversations. And if the understanding doesn’t come about immediately, asking questions helps – which also sends out positive signals: “Your opinion is interesting to me”.

Admit errors

Nobody is perfect. Everyone knows it, but only a few care to admit it. By admitting mistakes, it provides a good basis for workplace communication. Those who apologize honestly have a disarming effect: The open admission of an error causes sympathy in the other person. Incidentally, the assumption that this admission would be a sign of weakness is wrong – quite the opposite. Those who admit mistakes and deal with the consequences prove strength. Only those who are weak sweep misfortunes under the carpet and hope that they will never be found.

Ensuring good communication in the workplace

Once you have realized why good communication is important in the workplace and what distinguishes it, you can clarify how to establish a constructive culture of discussion in your own company. Various techniques have proven their worth in the past.

Meetings

In many companies, meetings are perceived as a nuisance because they cost time and are of little use: While one speaks, the others sit around more or less bored. However, it does not have to be this way. Open meetings, in which everyone can participate, establish a discussion culture that is characterized by interesting contributions. Everyone should be actively invited to participate in discussions, ask questions, and present their own ideas.

Written form

Not everyone can spontaneously convey complex facts. This is why emails and other documents are suitable for sorting thoughts neatly and formulating them clearly. This avoids misunderstandings. However, emails should always be the basis for further discussions. In personal contact, questions can be asked and answered much better. Focusing on purely written communication becomes a one-way street, making constructive discussions impossible.

One-on-one talks

Some employees feel uncomfortable talking in large groups. In order to give these people the chance to get involved, regular one-on-one talks help. This does not always have to be between supervisor and employee, productive discussions can also be held between two colleagues at the same level. The conversation in a small circle not only helps some people to talk more openly, but also supports listening. If you are distracted more quickly in large groups, you pay more attention to your counterpart in a one-on-one conversation. Uncertainties can also be eliminated directly, because the listener can ask without inhibitions which may not be the case in large groups.

Aids

Various tools can help to ensure that information is transmitted completely and correctly. The first is the language itself. Simple formulations make it easier for the listener to grasp what is being said. If you use sophisticated phrases and obscure imagery or metaphors, you might show off your eloquence, but might not get your information across clearly – and that should be much more important in workplace communication.

However, other things can help the facts be conveyed more easily: Visual media, for example, has the ability to attract attention and simplify matters. With a diagram or a graphic, you can support your verbal explanations. At the same time, body language plays a role in effective communication that should not be underestimated. Above all, positive signals like smiles and eye-contact ensure a good atmosphere and greater willingness to pay attention. An appropriate gesture, which supports the verbal contribution, additionally provides clarity.

Friendliness

It might sound trivial, but it can really help: If you communicate in a friendly manner, the interviewer is more willing to participate constructively. In addition to a cheerful facial expression, harmless little jokes also help to create a good mood. At the same time, however, one should radiate self-confidence. That applies first and foremost to individuals in leading positions. Self-confidence also produces positive effects among colleagues of equal rank: If you doubt yourself, the other employees will also be suspicious of what you say.

Training

You can learn to communicate correctly – either through years of professional experience or in the form of training, workshops or reading. Step-by-step, you will learn how to improve your communication at work, from body language to the structure of a lecture. For special positions (like freelancers or executives) tailor-made courses are offered, which deal with specific challenges. In addition, it makes sense not to let every employee work on communication for themselves, but to bring the entire team together in a group workshop.

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