Workplace Communication 101.
It’s quite funny that there’s no course at uni on communication right? Well I mean, you may be studying a media and communications degree. But even so – I don’t remember there being a crash course during that degree on “5 ways to apologise to your colleague after offending them.”
In fact – when it comes to navigating communication in the workplace, it’s entirely up to you how prepared you are to handle and execute your best verbal and non-verbal self in the boardroom, lunch room, coffee cart, at your desk, on the phone and on email … yep there really are that many!
So here’s a handful of tips, tricks and hacks to help you start preparing now for this newfound territory you’ll soon find yourself in!
1 // Context and tone
I know you are aware of the difference context and tone of voice can make to a sentence. You know this because you’ve used both of these things when speaking and having conversations with many different people.
What we hardly ever consider is that through email BOTH of these things tend to get lost.
Strictly speaking – while different messaging platforms have been introduced into the workplace – email is on of the stand-alone forms of workplace communications that have withstood the test of time.
And unlike instant messaging platforms, there is little room to quickly correct a misunderstand. On average, the majority of people (52%) who send a work-related email expect a reply within 12 and 24 hours, but 60% of people say they will wait two days to reply to their email (Mailtime).
Which means, you need to remember that when giving and receiving emails A LOT can happen between the beginning of your email “Hey Meg” and the sign off “Kind Regards, Saara”.
Part of being a professional, means ensuring the context and tone of your written comms leaves little room for a raised eyebrow or confused and furrowed brow.
Consider leaving these words out of your emails –
Actually can come across snippy and is easily misconstrued.
Sort of, Kind of, Might should be eliminated as they may imply unreliability.
Hopefully indicates you’re not capable of finishing the task!
2 // There’s no place to clarify a situation or statement, like the present.
Do not leave a situation or statement that doesn’t sit quite right with you, to simmer – instead nip that sh*t in the bud then and there (whilst using your EQ obviously)!!!
There is nothing wrong with asking a colleague, client or boss to re-explain their sentence or idea to you. The magic – where no one is offended by you doing this – happens in the delivery of HOW you ask them to do so.
Here’s what not to say: “I don’t get it.”
Pretty blunt right? Yep! Here’s a few simple steps to follow instead:
a) Admit you need clarification. Avoid being vague and let the person in your conversation know that you’re not following or that you don’t understand.
b) Avoid being accusatory for not understanding or being confused. Simply saying “Would you please explain that to me again?” is a much better delivery than “What does that even mean?”
c) Be specific. If there is a particular part of the conversation that has confused you, name it. You’re seeking the clarification, so you need to own the question!
3 // Don’t forget to your environment.
Considering you’re at work for 40 hours per week (give or take), sometimes it’s hard to separate work and personal communications.
First of all, it’s A-Okay to turn off your work emails on the weekend! Likewise, it’s perfectly find to send a work email on the weekend – but be aware that you may not receive an instant response and if there is something particularly urgent that you need to speak to your boss about – opt for a text or call instead.
Secondly, don’t take away from this article that you need to be particularly rigid about how you communicate with your colleagues, boss or clients. There is always room for you to add personality into your messages/emails/verbal conversations, but you need to remember that there is a steady balance between professionalism and personalism!
Thirdly, to add an extra layer of navigation … be aware of how you communicate in your different workplace surroundings. For example, a presentation to your Manager will require a higher level of professionalism (formal), than your daily chit-chat with your peers at lunch (informal).
Finally, don’t forget the power of SIMPLE gestures to help ease the entire workplace environment. A sticky note on a piece of paper you’re about to pop into someone’s in-tray that clarifies what/who/when can make a HUGE difference!