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Effective communication in the workplace
Effective communication in the workplace

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1.1 Leaders and followers

A key working relationship is between a leader and a follower, for example your manager and you. Effective communication between these two roles ensures that the workplace runs smoothly. If communication isn’t effective, a number of challenges can arise.

The most important element in a successful leader/follower relationship is trust. You learned about building trust in Week 2, so you know that open and honest communication plays a fundamental role.

As a leader, you should communicate often. Your role is to motivate your followers by:

  • sharing a clear vision that you believe in, and focusing on the impact of the work you are doing
  • leading by example and making yourself visible and accessible to them
  • supporting their needs so they can work efficiently and effectively.

This isn’t always an easy path to tread, but it is part of your role as an effective leader, so you must find time for it.

As a follower, you can be positive and proactive, providing support to your leader(s) as a partner rather than a subordinate. You can communicate more effectively with them by:

  • asking questions
  • providing constructive feedback
  • fulfilling your commitments and asking for help when needed
  • volunteering for opportunities to contribute your ideas and expertise.

Communicating honestly with your manager can sometimes feel challenging, but if your feedback is constructive and you deliver it appropriately and with tact, it should be well received.

Activity 1 Communicating with leaders

Timing: Allow 15 minutes for this activity

Think about a relationship you have at work with a senior member of staff. It might be your line manager or a departmental manager or someone from another department that you work with on a particular project. If you aren’t currently working, consider the hierarchies in any voluntary organisations or clubs you are involved with and choose a suitable individual from there.

How do you communicate with that individual? Is your communication open and honest or do you feel you can’t tell them what you really think?

How do they communicate with you? Have they taken the time to build your trust?

Note your thoughts in the box below.

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You might already have an open and trusting working relationship with this person, in which case – keep going as you are and celebrate it!

Or, perhaps you can now see the benefits of communicating more openly with the individual you chose for this exercise. Try asking some questions in your next meeting with them and gauge their response. This could be the beginning of a more productive relationship.

Or maybe the individual you thought of struggles with effective communication and building trust. Are they better at written or verbal messages? Could you focus on the form of communication they seem more comfortable with and use that more effectively?

If you want to understand more about how leaders and followers can work together more effectively, investigate the OpenLearn course Leadership and followership [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .

When the working environment does not allow for open and honest communication, people become less flexible and more focused on their own concerns. This can lead to strong emotions and difficult situations. In the next section you’ll look at managing your own emotions – a useful skill that can help to diffuse a range of issues.