The ABC of Effective Communication in the workplace

Published by mpume on

Communication is one of the major concerns in the workplace. Creating and maintaining a positive work environment is what effective workplace communication entails. From the research, it is clear that there is a need to improve communication in the workplace. In every aspect of life -both professional and personal, effective communication is important to success and happiness. Effective communication at the workplace is what distinguishes a good leader from a great one. Communication at work defines organisational goals and helps coworkers collaborate. Research shows that companies ranked communication skills twice as important as managerial skills. Communication is therefore crucial in the workplace because it provides purpose, it avoids confusion, and creates accountability.

Getting the basics of communication. What is Effective Communication?

We often take for granted that everyone understands what and how to communicate until things go wrong. If you don’t have the basic building blocks of what communication works, it becomes a problem when you face challenges, and you don’t know how to go about it. In very basic terms, effective communication means that, the way and what you have communicated and the way the message is received is clear and understood. For example, if you communicate “A” and the other person understands your message to be “A” then effective communication has taken place. But if you communicate “A” and the other person understands it to be “C” then no effective communication has taken place, it means there was a communication breakdown.

Basic Model of Communication

Just to use the basic model of communication, every communication starts with the “Sender”, followed by the in “Message” in the middle, and at the end there is the “Receiver”. What happens is that the message gets lost in translation, depending on how; it is packaged, what platform was used, and how the message was presented. Within the message space, people get lost such that by the time the message travels from point A to point B, people get lost. People misinterpret because of their context, so that’s why it is always crucial to understand your audience. Often a lot of people waffle and not say things clearly.

Communication is a skill. What you will know about communication, you learn about it. You work on packaging yourself in your communication and that will make  people understand you better. The techniques used are different for each audience. It’s not a “one size fits all” technique that’s applied. You need to know who you are communicating to and therefore communicate accordingly.

How to get your communication skills “right”.

  • Do some serious introspection on yourself, think about how you communicate, listen to the words you say as opposed to just saying what you think you ought to say to the other person. As human beings we have a wonderful ability to observe ourselves. so pay attention and observe yourself.
  • What’s the voice that’s constantly playing in your head as you go about your day to day because that voice influences how you talk. Be in tune with what your energy is about, because when you communicate, that energy is what comes off and people may not like it.
  • Assess how authentic you are being – often we create a character that is far-fetched, and people do not connect, for example, instead of using words that you would ordinarily use, you deliberately use “big” words as an effort to sound clever.
  • Ask those around you how you come across – those you trust will provide you with constructive criticism. And criticism is not to say change who you are, it’s just so you can soften up and improve on yourself if people think you come across as aggressive.

Is there a difference in how one communicates at work and outside work?

There is two ways to this. Yes, to the question, because you need to be true to yourself, nothing sells more than being authentic, nothing sells more than being confident in yourself. And No, because the way you talk to your friends is not the same as how you communicate to your manager. The difference then comes in the packaging of the message depending on who you are presenting the message to. At work you need to be formal, in a work context, you are more focused.  While at home or with your friends, you can be emotional, you can jump around in the conversation and be unstructured. But in all of this, you are still expected to be your authentic self. And you can also play it by ear depending on who you are communicating to.

How to build your confidence

  • Get to the root of it – check what it is that makes you afraid to speak up, listen to your inner voice.
  • Face your fears – and move past it, keep moving and don’t focus on the fear.
  • Get out of your shell – don’t make assumptions about what you think people will say when they hear you speak.
  • Have courage to show up – you need to make yourself visible, don’t be afraid to make mistakes.
  • Get a mentor – an accountability partner will help you point out where you need to improve, as long as you find someone who will do it in a safe environment.

What does assertiveness look like?

There are varying versions of assertiveness, depending on where you are in your career. For some, the concept of what it is to be assertive can mean different things at different stages of life, it changes over time as one grows in their career. 

It can mean to stand your ground wherever you are, it can mean to stand up for your values and not be easily swayed, not to mean that you have to be a bully. It is very important to make it clear who you are and where you stand within the organisation. Some people struggle to articulate what they really want.

For someone who is new to the corporate world, you need to understand why you have been hired into the organisation and stand on that. Take ownership of your space, what you are responsible for and what you there to achieve. Don’t allow people to dictate to you how to do your job, you need to stand firm and be grounded in your role. It’s difficult when you don’t fully understand your role, then you become easily swayed by opinions of those who have been there a while. Don’t feel inferior just because you are a junior, don’t forget that you have been hired to fill that role because someone recognises your ability.

Benefits of effective communication in the workplace

  • Less misunderstanding – there is clarity on what each party is expected to do.
  • Develops a healthy culture at work- Fosters healthy working relationships among colleagues, subordinates, and management.
  • Resolve conflicts easily – Conflicts are resolved in a professional manner, amicably and constructively.
  • Promotes team spirit – builds trust amongst the team members and encourages working towards a common goal.
  • Boosts self-esteem – people become confident in themselves knowing that their message is communicated in a manner that everybody understands and is aligned to the overall goal.
  • Everyone wins – it leads to fulfilled employees and overall business success

Finally…be authentic all the way. Don’t be afraid to be yourself. Especially with women, we are always told who to be, how to conduct ourselves. In doing that we deny our voice, we deny ourselves, we grow into something different, something we are not. In your authenticity, be able to package yourself, dress your packaging in a way that people will take you seriously, depending on the role you fulfill. And last but not least, take the first step to become an effective communicator, believe in yourself and link up with people that can help you on your journey to a better you.


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