Work communication is a vital part of any successful business, as well as successful work relationships. If you can’t communicate effectively, your co-workers might feel frustrated with you, and even avoid you. It’s also possible that if you lack proper communication skills, your co-workers or boss might not understand your directions, or your feedback, and mistakes can be made. In addition, sometimes work relationships turn awkward if someone misinterprets what you said or did. There are so many different ways to communicate at work, that it isn’t surprising that miscommunication happens so often. However, it’s vital to try to be an effective communicator at work, and sometimes, there are specific things or situations that are stopping you from communicating effectively. Here are five things to keep in mind that may be affecting your work communication.
1. Poor email communication
Email has made it so much easier to communicate with many people at once, and with people who are either too busy, or too far away, to speak to you regularly in person. Email has the benefit of being extremely quick, efficient, and sometimes, it can save a lot of money over other kinds of communication. Unfortunately, there are a lot of potential issues with email. The most glaring is the fact that if you make a mistake in an email, you often can’t take it back, especially if you don’t realize it until the person receiving it has already read it. Too many grammatical errors can frustrate your audience, as can too many unnecessary emails that fill up people’s email boxes.
When you write a work email, try to be as succinct as possible. Proofread for errors, and avoid being too informal. Also, don’t send too many emails to a large group of people, especially if some of them really don’t need the information. Lastly, be sure that your information is really appropriate for email–some issues need to be addressed in person or on the phone.
2. Poor phone skills
If you have a difficult time speaking on the phone, your phone skills may stopping you from being an effective communicator at work. Phone skills are important in varying degrees depending on your job. If you are in sales or customer service, you may regularly need to be on the phone. Your job probably is based primarily on listening to the customer’s problem and trying to come up with a solution. It’s important to be respectful, courteous, and if possible, brief.
Even if you just use the phone once in a while for work communication, there are still important factors to consider. It’s important to start your conversation off right (and saying the other person’s name is a good place to start.) Your voice and tone are also extremely important; if you speak angrily, it won’t matter if you are trying to help the other person or not, because they will be focused on the way you are making your point.
3. Poor face-to-face interactions
Interacting poorly with your co-workers and boss can be one of the quickest ways to ruin your chance of advancement. If you can’t talk to people in a friendly way, or if you are always hurried or irritable, people won’t want to interact with you, and will even wonder if you really care about your job. It’s important to establish eye contact, be an active listener, and be clear about what you want to express. It’s also helpful to be careful about when you try to approach someone to discuss something important; don’t approach your boss or co-worker if they are already on the phone or talking to someone, or if they are clearly already busy.
4. Poor presentation and meeting skills
As important as daily phone, email, and in-person communication are, the communication you display in a meeting can also be extremely important. If you go to a meeting and you are not prepared, it negatively affects the other people in the meeting. People expect that you will do your part, whether you are running the meeting, or just sharing your work. If you come to a meeting without preparing your presentation, or if you haven’t thought about what you can say, other people will react negatively and often resent the waste of their time. It’s important to regularly keep eye contact, to have an organized presentation or list of points, and be ready to answer questions.
You should also be an effective listener and participant if you are in a meeting but not leading it. Playing with your cell phone, avoiding eye contact, or folding your arms across your chest, can also send a negative message.
5. Poor personal boundaries
If you are experiencing personal problems outside of work, it’s important to keep them mostly to yourself. Unless you have a specific reason for telling your boss, your own personal issues should not affect your work performance. Talking too much about private information, is another example of ineffective work communication. It shows that you don’t understand work boundaries, and that you let your personal problems affect your ability to do your work. Another example of poor personal boundaries is participating in office gossip, which is not an appropriate form of work communication.
There are many ways that you may be ineffectively communicating at work, and some are more damaging than others. It’s also important not to promptly share project or work-related problems promptly; failing to do so can push a project back or cause a bigger problem. Make it a priority to communicate with your co-workers in a respectful, but succinct, manner, whenever possible.