Many of us have experienced the negative effects of poor communication in the workplace. When information is transferred insufficiently or inaccurately, workplace productivity goes down. In the worst cases, crucial tasks do not get done and goals are not met.
The good news is that the opposite is also true. Good workplace communication can have positive effects on performance including increased productivity, higher employee morale, repeat business, improved employee retention, and a healthier work environment overall.
There are many factors that impact communication—both positively and negatively. But before we explore them, let’s first take a look at what good communication is.
What is Good Workplace Communication?
At its most basic level, communication is defined as the transfer of information from a sender to a receiver. Eliminating “noise”, reaching mutual understanding, and “feeding back” are all essential to good communication.
“Noise” is any interference that negatively impacts the information that is being sent or received. Noise in a simple workplace conversation may be literal noise (such as the sound of loud equipment) that causes one person to miss part of what the other is saying because they can’t hear. It can also be something subtle, such as when the listener doesn’t entirely hear the other person because they’re distracted by their own thoughts. Good listening is essential to effective communication!
Mutual understanding is achieved when the receiver “hears” precisely what the sender has set out to convey. Feeding back helps to ensure that this understanding has, in fact, been achieved. Feeding back can originate with either the speaker or the receiver. For instance, a receiver can restate the message (“This is what I heard you say…”), or the sender can ask the receiver pertinent questions to ensure they’ve understood (“Just so we’re clear…you will have the report to me by 2:00pm tomorrow, correct?”)
Good workplace communication happens when the final results of the communication are positive. People thrive on information. On the receiving side of things, individuals are happier and more productive when they’ve been told exactly what is expected of them. On the sending side, the ability to effectively convey your thoughts to others is paramount to success. People who don’t communicate well suffer the consequences of having work done incorrectly and having employees or co-workers who are continually frustrated.
What is Employee Morale?
Employee morale is the general feeling or spirit around the workplace—it can be good or bad. Morale may be driven downward if a deal was lost, layoffs have occurred, or there is too much stress in the work environment. Morale may be uplifted if the organization has achieved a big goal, employees have received bonuses, or a new product or service has been well-received by customers. Communication is a key driver of employee morale. When there is positive, two-way communication between managers and subordinates, and among co-workers, morale tends to be good.
The Importance of Effective Workplace Communication Skills
Have you ever noticed that nearly every job description in any field lists good communication skills as a necessary requirement for the job? Effective communication truly is important because without it, an organization will not be able to thrive and may even cease functioning. While it is unrealistic to assume that every employee will become an expert communicator, there are many tactics that can improve internal and external communication in your workplace.
Clear communication prevents common workplace problems: Effective communication happens when the receiver understands the message just as the sender intended. The receiver can improve the likelihood that this has happened by confirming what they’ve heard. In a simple conversation, this can be as easy as the listener repeating the information back to the sender or asking clarifying questions. This gives the sender the opportunity to restate the message if it was not received correctly, preventing bigger problems down the road.
The power of positive communication: Communication can instantly start off on the wrong foot when it’s approached negatively rather than positively. Because some form of verbal or written communication is necessary to address any kind of problem, negative issues are often presented in a negative way which only exacerbates the situation. As much as possible, problems can and should be addressed in a positive manner. For example, if a meeting is held to address something like decreased productivity, the meeting itself will be more productive if it begins by pointing out positives that have also occurred recently.
The power of future conversation: Typically, 80% of a work-related conversation is spent rehashing the problems of the past and assigning blame; 15% is spent on what’s happening now and 5% is spent on solutions and future possibilities. Turning these numbers around can turn the tone of a conversation around as well. Future-based conversations don’t have to ignore the past, but they can help focus people on what’s really important: finding a positive solution for the future.
Communicating according to the golden rule: Because so many factors affect communication, different types of “noise” can ruin good communication before it even begins. For example, if the person you need to communicate with comes to work in a rotten mood, it will affect their perception of what you are trying to say. If you are in a bad mood, you will be the one likely to influence the communication in a negative way. Employees can achieve the greatest success by showing respect for one another and developing positive channels of communication. This begins with each individual simply thinking about how they would like to be approached and then treating others in that manner. It also means that people speak up when they are on the receiving end of another person’s negative or ineffective communication style. When individuals take personal responsibility for effective communication (be they the sender or the receiver), the morale around the workplace will improve.
Recommended Training Resource: Communication Counts: Speaking and Listening for Results improves organizational productivity and reduces organizational errors by depicting six common communication errors and providing tips on how to avoid them.