Tips for communicating effectively at work

Technology is wonderful in most areas of our life. Yet there are some aspects where using advanced technology may not be the best route. There are times at work when we miscommunicate because of technologically-based assumptions. We assume that our emails went through, that our slides were attached, that the texts were received, or that the answering machine works. As managers, we have to guard against misperceptions caused by miscommunication. Great communication goes a long way to decrease frustration and increase productivity. Here are 7 ways to communicate more effectively at work.

Talk face to face. Get up and go have a conversation with someone, especially if there is a misunderstanding. Much of our communication today is done without even seeing the person who works just a short walk away. Just a five-minute conversation can help us understand that person’s perspective and clarify responsibilities. At Zappos in Las Vegas, the boss has a cubicle along a cubicle row like everyone else. They believe that close quarters encourage workers to share ideas with others around them, which includes the boss. If your co-workers are not within walking distance, pick up the phone.

Provide clear information. Before you pass information on to others, make sure that it is accurate and complete. This sounds very basic, but when we assume that the other person knows what project we are referring to, we provide an avenue for a problem. If we aren’t clear, we create confusion and communication breaks down. My assistant seems to read my mind, so I am sometimes careless with my communications to her because I assume she is following my train of thought. She is an amazing communicator, so when I am not clear, she asks for clarification.

Ask questions. Like my amazing assistant, asking for clarity is a sign of a great communicator. Never be afraid to ask questions to confirm that what you are hearing the correct message. Asking questions also tells the other person that you are listening, that you understand, and that you are solidifying what you have heard.

Listen. Really listen with your whole body. Listen as you look at the other person and focus on what they are saying, not on your next meeting, your to-do list, or what you want to say next. Many times people are so quick to talk that they forget to listen. Good communication involves both verbalizing and active listening. Let others talk. We have all been in meetings where one person speaks, and no one else gets to voice their concerns or ideas. Leaders, especially, need to be mindful that they do not dominate the meeting. If people perceive that the boss just wants an affirmation of his or her ideas and not an open group discussion, employees will shut down. As someone commented, “Why would I end my career by criticizing the boss’s ideas?” If people are not encouraged to express their opinions, the result is stifled ideas, resentment, and frustration.

Honesty. People listen to people they trust. Honesty still is the best policy (and it is easiest to remember). When information is shared honestly and with respect, even bad news can be managed.

Confirm completion. Close the communication loop. When you are communicating with someone at work, make sure to go over each step clearly with them if it is new procedure. You can also ask for confirmation when the work is accomplished. People will often complete a task, but if you don’t know it was completed, you still think about it, so ask that they close the loop with you by letting you know when it was finished.

Sometimes we forget that everything we do and say is communicated to others, and we need to be aware of the perceptions our actions create in others. It’s great to use technology to our advantage, sometimes we need to add a personal touch for a better outcome.

Mary C. Kelly, PhD is CEO of Productive Leaders and author of Master Your World: 10 Dog-Inspired Leadership Lessons to Improve Productivity and Profits.