Everyone has stories about a particularly bad day they had at the office. It’s just part of work life. I’ve learned, however, that many difficult situations could have been avoided – or at least handled more professionally – if the parties involved were better communicators. When I appeared on WCCO’s Mid-Morning Show, I tried to solve this all-too-common problem by sharing some of my best workplace communication tips.
Here’s what you can do to minimize sour times at your office:
1. Recognize that the right communication behaviors may not be modeled for you. In many industries, the communications bar has been set very low. You may not have a communication superstar to emulate. And keep in mind that your intuition may be way off-base. For example, you may feel the need to shout when you really need to stay calm. Or you may think it doesn’t matter what you say, as long as you say it with a smile.
The truth is: Demeanor matters, but word choice is the single greatest factor for improving results. So, you must …
2. Choose words that reinforce positive business results. It’s never about what people like or don’t like. It’s about how their livelihood will improve or how their jobs will be easier. Always describe the benefits to your readers or listeners, and they will engage.
Simple word choices can make a tremendous difference. For example:
- Would you rather be in the hot seat or the spotlight?
- Do you hate or oppose the idea?
- Are you concerned about the ramification or the outcome?
Here’s a workplace example: You see a mistake-in-the-making and you want to jump in and say, “I disagree”. A better option is to focus your response on the business results. Frame it positively by saying, “Here’s what’s at risk if we proceed …”
3. Address the elephant in the room. If there’s an uncomfortable issue occurring, don’t ignore it. Everyone knows it’s there. Not dealing with it head-on may destroy your credibility.
For example: If you had to let employees go, be up front about it with the rest of their team. You don’t have to divulge every detail, but you should absolutely acknowledge their departures. And let others know how they can offer best wishes to those departing. Nobody wants to feel like they have to sneak around to say goodbye to a colleague or friend.
Another example: Let’s say you’ve made a mistake. It will be much easier to get others to comply with your requests if you take accountability first. The best words to say: “I intended to have this file to you as scheduled, and while there were issues beyond my control, the fact is I should have allocated more time to the project. I’ll be more diligent going forward.”
4. Recognize that the more you put into it, the more you’ll get out of it. You can’t learn to speak a foreign language or play hockey well unless you practice. It’s the same with workplace communication. You need to practice communicating well when times are good, so you’ll communicate well when times are tough.