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How to Improve Communication

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Effective communication is essential for an organization to be resilient and therefore able to respond to change and disruption in a flexible and innovative manner. When offices have open and honest communication at all levels and in all directions, they will be more likely to maintain their work productivity when a crisis hits.

Here are some tips for improving communication:

  • Err on the side of over-communicating. While most leaders think they are communicating enough with their teams, most employees wish they had more information and report not feeling well-informed. Recognize this disconnect and try to communicate more than you think is necessary. Don’t assume that everyone will get your message with just one announcement or email. Ensure that important information is communicated in several different ways in various forums to make sure it is heard.
  • Restructure staff meetings. Many staff meetings start with head of the office reporting out and then each team member giving his report. This one-way communication has limited benefits. Instead, consider focusing staff meetings on a theme or problem and then have a discussion that engages everyone. You want dialogue, not monologue.
  • Ask questions. One of the best ways to improve communication is to ask probing and thoughtful questions. And then shut up and listen.
  • Communicate bad news: Failure to communicate bad news leaves a vacuum that will almost always be filled by gossip and stories far worse than reality. If you have bad news, don’t hesitate to pass it on. Communicate what you can early and often. If you don’t have the full story yet, it is ok to tell people that you don’t know everything but you will tell people what you can. If you cannot tell a full story due to privacy issues, say so.
  • Talk in person. Email is a limited form of communication best used to confirm information, clarify tasks or deliver non-complex details. It is a terrible tool for resolving conflict, negotiating or discussing complex issues. Pick up the phone, schedule a meeting or walk down the hall to communicate in person where you’ll have a more robust and effective conversation.
  • Be clear and concise. Think elevator briefing every time you communicate. With limited time and way too many emails, writing a concise email or giving a quick simple explanation will mean you’re better understood.
  • Have an open mind. Suppress your opinions and solicit input with a genuine desire to learn from others. If you’re the boss, this is even more important because employees will often tell you what they think you want to hear instead of their true thoughts. Avoid this by speaking last and valuing the opinions of others.

What have you done to improve communication in your work place?

This blog does not represent official policies of the Department of State or those of the U.S. Government.

 

Beth Payne is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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11 Comments

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Allen Shepard

Communication works when when it moves things forward (duh!, I know but one second)
Moving forward means updating or changing the plan or ideas.
Here the quote “When was the last time you let a subordinate change your mind” rings true. Workers are not mere extensions of the boss. They are the eyes and ears of what is happening in the trenches where the fight is.
Leaders empower good ideas to grow.
Yes, sometimes things are as good as they are going to get. Sometimes there are no good ideas.
Sometimes it is just “Are we ready, what is happening in the next few months and how do we make the employees happier.
Asking “What are their concerns” makes people feel valued and like they have some control or input.

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Marlene Jacques

Good morning,

Thank you for these important tips on effective communication. It is, as always, greatly appreciated. As a professional person who is partially deaf and as a self-assigned disability advocate, I often think of persons with disability who have difficulty using the phone. So, I would like the hear the experience/or obtain some guidance from this team of experts concerning effective communication for persons who are deaf or hard of hearing.

For me personally, I try in person because I depend on being able to read lips when it is feasible. I have great difficulty communicating over the telephone, even if using a Captel phone. I am a late deafened and English is my second language. I don’t sign. So, I find that my most effective means of communication is concise writing. I would like to hear from the group.

Thank you very much.

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Sandra Anderson

Hello I share your sentiments, I can hear some what out of one ear and the other ear has no hearing. I don’t sign either and appreciate your courage and comment. I find myself often asking, can you repeat that please.

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Profile Photo Victor Romero

Thx/Gracias, Ms. Payne, for the well-rounded set of communications technique reminders. “Restructure Staff Meetings” happens to be a topic of pointed conversation among me and my colleagues this week. Your fine words will help us get over the hump!

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J.

Well, my new boss spoke to us in a meeting with my peers back in February 2017 and talked about respecting one another, trust and open communication, but when I tried to give feedback he became angry and stated, “(MY NAME) SHUT THE F**£ UP!”

You can’t do anything if you have a horrible manager.

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Joyce

I come from a different background. If someone called me out in a meeting and said that to me I would get up in there face and dare them to repeat it. Respect earned is respect given. No job is worth this kind of disrespect.

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Angelika Harper

Hello,
I am in Employee Relations and Labor Relations, and you should talk to your local HR representative about the misconduct of your manager. We need to hold everybody accountable for their conduct not just employees, which by-the-way your manager is also an employee and has a boss.

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Marlene Jacques

Well J,

The situation that you discussed is very unfortunate. And, it does not seem to be an issue with someone’s ability to communicate effectively in a professional setting in order to achieve the goal and objectives of that organization. This begs the question of cultural or acceptable norms.

That being said, I am in a health care environment. I am also a manager where mutual respect is expected. Therefore, if I were to speak to anyone at work in the manner in which that you described, it would have been considered a work rule violation. Consequently, I would have been reported to the Human Resources Department for appropriate disciplinary action. There is zero tolerance for unprofessional behaviors at my work place. So, I hope that you are able to use proper internal policy to address that issue. Good luck.

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Viola Lopez-Herrera, Ed.D.

Great article! Communication is also important on a personal level; this may be emphasized also.

Thank you!

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Carla

Know your audience when giving information. This way, you are sure to give information in a way they will understand.

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Charlene

Good advise. When I managed preschools, I often gave out important information on written memos. Teachers signed for their copies so I knew who had it and who didn’t. It also acted as an accountability tool to avoid the proverbial “I didn’t know.”

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