No matter what field of work you are in, or how far you have climbed the career ladder, one thing that every employer is looking for is effective communication skills. But what does that look like exactly? Well, communication as defined is the exchange of information – and while there is no way to bridge the entire subject (on which countless best-selling books have been written) here in one simple blog, we do want to break down the subject to discuss how communication factors into the world of work.
From the moment you are born, you are communicating. You use words, sounds, body language, and even personal appearance to share information with others, and you observe those same methods from others around you. This creates a false sense that good communication is natural and easy, when it is everything but. Effective communication takes hard work and sometimes can even feel uncomfortable, but as you begin to improve your skills the more natural it will become.
Here are some things to keep in mind when you consider communication in the workplace.
To understand how complex communication is, do a simple Google search for “communication styles” and you will be inundated with countless scholarly articles on their takes of the different ways in which people communicate and the personality traits that factor in to their style. Ultimately, regardless of how the writer chooses to label them, the styles tend to fall into 4 different buckets: those that take the driver’s seat, those who analyze all the fine details, the expressive ones, and those that quietly keep the peace. Being able to understand both your communication style as well as the style of who you are communicating with is key to long-term professional success.
Save The Colorful Language
Sentence enhancers, especially those of the four-letter variety, may be appropriate or even welcome in some social situations – the workplace, however, shouldn’t be one of them. The same goes for off-color jokes and phrases – the work environment should be kept professional and be a safe haven from all that kind of stuff so people can comfortably perform their job. Again, the key to long-term career success is to demonstrate that you are a professional (no matter what is happening around you) and that you can handle yourself with tact and a certain level of decorum, which requires a clear communication style filled with appropriate language and discourse.
Asking for Clarification
All too often, many conflicts can be boiled down to simple miscommunication – or the stories people make up in their heads about all the finer details when they don’t have all the information. When details are scarce it is easy to make up a story in your own mind that fills in all the blanks, but we urge you to avoid that tendency at all costs and instead ask for clarification when appropriate. Whether you are working to better understand performance expectations, policies in place, changes that impact your work, or even interactions with other individuals that leave you wondering – take the time to seek clarity.
You will build relationships at work, it is natural when you spend so many hours a day with the people you work with. No matter how chummy you get with your coworkers it is best for all involved if you refrain from oversharing personal details of your life, especially when on the clock. Setting clear boundaries about what you are willing to talk about at work will help you set yourself up for long-term success and improve your working relationships.
Providing & Accepting Feedback
Feedback is a cornerstone of ongoing success for both individuals as well as the organization as a whole, and having the ability to accept and provide feedback will go a long way in your professional development. The key is to not make it (or take it) personal. When you are on the receiving end of feedback, take in the information with the understanding that it is being provided to help you perform better. When you accept that feedback can help you grow, it can become a powerful tool for you. Oh and if the feedback is positive, say “thank you.” There may be instances where feedback is unsolicited (and sometimes unwarranted), but use your critical thinking skills to take what you can from it, and leave the rest.
When it comes to providing feedback, make it a point to be clear, concise, and focus solely on the business need, the impact the negative performance is having, and the expectations of performance moving forward – and provide support when appropriate to help them get there. Clarity is critical in these conversations, so avoid generalizations and vague descriptions. The goal is not to confront, but to seek understanding and find a path to move forward.