Effective Communication in the Workplace: A Primer for Managers

By Robert Half on July 13, 2015 at 12:00pm

Few things are more important than promoting effective communication in the workplace. Here’s what managers need to know.

Whether you’re a manager at a large corporation or a small business, the way you communicate with your employees can pave the road to success or a path to turmoil. Poor communication can result in distrust, conflict and eventually employee (or manager) turnover.

Conversely, good communication can boost morale and productivity, and engender loyalty.

Do you find that some members of your team seem perennially frustrated, or observe that there’s suddenly an unhealthy amount of office gossip? Is morale suffering? These may be signs that the lines of communication are getting clogged. Here are six ways to foster effective communication in the workplace:

1. Keep information flowing

Employees might worry when they don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes, creating an environment in which speculation can take root and rumors thrive. If you don’t give people information, they’re going to start making guesses. This doesn’t mean employees have to know everything you know, but keeping the team informed about issues that may affect them creates a sense of transparency. It lifts the fog.

2. Remain accessible

Sure, you’re the boss, and you don’t want to blur the line between authority and friendship. But an open door to communication is important. This can be achieved by simply leaving your office door open at times, or offering a quick note of praise — “Nice work on that account, Pat. Looks like you’ve got it under control, but let me know if there’s anything I can do to help as you finish up.”  With affirming statements, you’ve avoided micromanaging, while sending the message that you’re approachable.

3. Reach out

Some employees are reserved, and simply being accessible may not be enough to open the lines of communication. It’s a good idea to occasionally approach these less-assertive workers to check in and see how they're doing.

4. Choose the right time for the intended message

Even when the need to communicate a message is apparent, the time and place to deliver it may not be. Which will be more effective — announcing something in a weekly meeting, one-on-one, or through an office memo? Consider how the information will affect employees individually and collectively. Is it prudent to directly approach a subordinate about adhering to deadlines, or is the problem systemic, justifying an email to the entire team?

5. Use the right tone

The words you choose and your tone of voice can impact the effectiveness of your communication. The delivery and approach are key. You don’t have to sugarcoat, but it’s better to address a problem with a solution than to come off as browbeating.

6. Beware of nonverbal cues

Think beyond the words. Chances are, your employees are seeking your approval — or at least looking to avoid your disapproval. Body language can send subtle or strong messages. As busy as you may be, take the time to make proper eye contact or give a friendly nod when you walk by people in the office. When they come to you with a question, don’t just tell them you’re listening; show you respect them by looking at them while they speak.

Problems are a normal part of business, but effective communication in the workplace allows problems to be solved quicker and more efficiently. It can promote team building and boost morale, too.

Share your ideas for effective communication in the workplace in the comments below.

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