Let’s face it. Every office has communication challenges. Some employees may refuse to share information; others may gossip or constantly interrupt. You may even have someone who stretches the truth or refuses to acknowledge the contributions of others.
There’s a reason why some corporate offices are more like a middle school locker room.
Many people believe they have mastered the English language and, consequently, the art of communication by their teens. But they’re wrong. This is one area where we need to continually update our skills. And I’m not just talking about vocabulary. One can have an excellent grasp of the language, but still struggle with healthy communication.
Before you blame those offending employees, realize it may not be their fault. They may not have worked under a leader who valued healthy office communication.
As a leader, you can build that healthy office culture – and boost office productivity and morale in the process – by following these best practices.
- Have clear expectations. Let your staff know what you expect and regularly reinforce that message. Make sure your employees know that you expect reports updated weekly and meeting minutes published within a day. In addition to sending regular reminders, publicly acknowledge those who follow through.
- Set a good example. Speaking favorably (or at least neutrally) about yourself and others may slow the office rumor mill.
- Show appreciation. Regularly acknowledge employees for their efforts. To make the most impact, avoid generic compliments. Be specific about how the individual’s contributions impact the bigger company picture.
- Curtail the big talkers. If an employee tends to interrupt a lot, or is so long-winded that others have trouble getting a word in, take action. Be diplomatic and say, “Please make your point after Tim has finished speaking.”
- Give credit where credit is due. Many offices have that person who struggles articulating their point of view, so they repeat someone else’s. When you hear this, don’t let it pass. Say this: “Thanks for affirming Jennifer’s position.”
- Provide communication training. Help your employees handle everyday business issues and manage conflict by providing a workshop on healthy communication. This helps build a cohesive, confident and hard-working team. Click here to see some topics I’ve presented.
- Acknowledge that your staff is human. The truth is, many people make simple mistakes about word choice, tone and voice every day. Training will minimize communication gaffes, but mistakes will still happen. Don’t overreact. Just use these as learning opportunities.