Poor interpersonal skills are a leading obstacle to an employee’s advancement, according to an Accountemps survey. Yet only one out of five firms plans to offer training in communication and interpersonal skills. It seems that "what we've got here is failure to communicate."

As a manager, you set the tone for your employees. How can you help to improve communication in the workplace?

Meet in person

If you’ve noticed that miscommunications typically occur when an employee uses email or the phone, start meeting in person. Your employee may have lackluster writing skills, or may not speak or listen well on the phone. All these things can result in misunderstandings.

In addition, employees may be distracted because they’re multitasking — checking email, surfing the Internet or texting while also communicating with you. Mobile devices have hurt workplace communication in a variety of ways, such as texting someone when a call is more appropriate or checking Twitter during meetings instead of paying attention to the discussion. In cases like these, communication in the workplace might be improved if you meet face to face to reduce distractions.

Make sure your employee understands you

Even when you meet a coworker in person, focus on communicating directly without corporate jargon: It’s often confusing and vague. Know the message you want to convey, and say it in the simplest way possible while still being courteous.

Occasionally ask whether you should clarify or repeat anything. You can also follow up spoken conversations with a written summary.

Consider your nonverbal communication

Do you send mixed signals with your body language? In an email, it’s easy enough to add a smiley face emoticon to show your tone. But in a face-to-face conversation, crossing your arms may make you appear defensive. Not looking at employees when they speak may make them feel disrespected, or that you’re not interested in what they’re saying. Instead, give them your full attention: Face your employees in a non-threatening way. Listen to all they have to say. And be an active listener. That means nodding or giving small verbal cues occasionally, without interrupting, to let your employee know that you’re listening — and you understand.

Lead by example

Some of your employees may have a lot to learn about interpersonal and communication skills. That makes it even more important to set the tone for effective communication in the workplace by being a leader who communicates well.

How do you interact with an employee who’s a poor communicator? Or how have you improved communication in the workplace? Let us know in the comments section.

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