How effectively we communicate at work can mean the difference between an efficient, empowered workforce, and one where everyone seems to be working against each other and has a high turnover of staff. Usually companies are somewhere in between with employees sometimes feeling misunderstood, and bosses unable to convey the ethos of the company.
Healthy communication in the workplace is not always a priority for managers. What I mean by healthy is the ease in which we are comfortable talking about our physical, mental and emotional health to others, as well as the messages we send about how we work and the problems we might face as an individual and as part of a team.
Boss, employee and contractor interactions need to be open and honest about how each of us work and how we can best work together in a productive way. Being told what to do and when to do it, doesn’t bring out the best in people when they have ideas of their own they feel they can’t express. We all know how much easier our jobs are when we get on with our colleagues. So, what we say and the way we say it can connect or disconnect us.
Clear guidelines for effective communication include:
1. Train managers to understand and look for signs of mental and physical ill health in the workforce and give them the skills and the tools to support them.
2. Be aware of how you communicate in a culturally diverse workplace, where there may be a broad range of differences in terms of gender, class and race. How we express ourselves can be varied and nuanced.
3. Possess a strong sense of integrity, empathy and respect yourself, and you will ensure others will work this way too, without preconceived ideas and judgemental views.
4. Model the best ways to communicate throughout the company – let others know when texting, emails and face-to-face discussions are best practice for interactions. For instance, when an important issue needs to be raised, consider a face-to-face discussion, as emails can be ambiguous and misinterpreted.
5. Involve the workforce in decision making when appropriate. This will ensure they feel valued by you.
6. Don’t be afraid to often ask the question “how can I help you?”, whether you are the boss helping employees to thrive, or a member of a team helping others to work well together. Listening skills do not always come naturally, so give all employees the training to become effective communicators.
7. Social interaction leads to easier communication between colleagues. Provide regular breaks and break out areas.
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