Communication Skills in the Workplace: Dealing with Communication Problems in the Age of Emails and Smart Phones
Sure, the advancements in technology made it more convenient to communicate with employees and clients from anywhere in the world but there’s a catch to all this. Emails and texts are delivered so fast the expected response time has gone up. You’re now expected to have access to your email all the time! And this is not the only problem with digital forms of communication- there’s sarcasm, clarity, unanswered questions and a host of other problems not normally encountered in face to face communications.
If you want to stay afloat and manage all the things demanding your attention at work, you’ll need to adopt new communication skills in the workplace.
- Don’t start with small talk if you have more important things to convey. I understand that greetings are important in face to face meetings and phone conversations. It’s a sign of politeness. But do you really have to ask how the person is doing through email? Email is meant to be a quick and to-the-point form of communication, so don’t start with pleasantries- especially if you email the same person regularly. Starting with pleasantries, instead of discussing the matter at hand, may not sound genuine, plus the recipient might get sidetracked because of your compliments or greetings.
- Stick to one topic or several related topics. If you are going to cover different but related topics, use bullet points to break out each subject. But if the topics are totally unrelated, consider sending a separate email to avoid confusion. Breaking down a long communication into several emails prevents confusion, unanswered questions, and mix-ups, so just stick to one topic. Aside from that, it will be quicker to look up past emails if you don’t have to read long blocks of text on different subjects.
- Look for potential misunderstandings or phrases that could be interpreted as sarcastic or offensive or be misunderstood. Give your communications a once-over before sending it. Put yourself in the shoes of the recipient, and then ask yourself if any part of your message is unclear, offensive or sarcastic. Does the message read as if the sender is shouting? Is it clear and concise? Are the questions or instructions in the message clear? Will the recipient have a clear sense of what to do next after reading it?
- Provide a clear and complete reply. Don’t you just hate it when you have to re-send an email because some of your questions weren’t answered? The solution to this is fairly simple, yet it can improve communication skills in the workplace tremendously. Train employees to write clear and bullet-pointed replies to every communication they get. It will also lessen the hassle of going back-and-forth to get additional information; it might even double team productivity, too.
- Be a creative nagger. Remember, email isn’t the only way to communicate, there’s phone calls, meetings, company website announcements, texts, memos, etc. So get creative. If you’re going to make a major announcement, use several types of media to ensure maximum reach—and to remind employees at every chance you get, without necessarily bugging them with the “same” announcement. For example, the annual general assembly could be announced first through email, then during a meeting, and also posted on company circulars. It won’t appear as if you’re nagging, because the assembly was announced in different ways. You see, sometimes a little creativity goes a long way in improving communication skills in the workplace.
Lastly, don’t forget the power of having a good old conversation. If there’s something very important you need to discuss, sometimes an email or a phone call won’t solve, talk to the person concerned face to face.
Your communication skills in the workplace can be improved. Just as you learned how to run a successful business, you can learn how to communicate in a world where almost everything is done through a smartphone.