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Effective communication in the workplace
Effective communication in the workplace

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1 What does communication mean?

In the Oxford English Dictionary, communication is described as ‘The transmission or exchange of information, knowledge, or ideas, by means of speech, writing, mechanical or electronic media’ (OED, 2019).

Four speech bubbles in different colours.
Figure 1 What is communication?

Two main types of communication are widely recognised and discussed in both business and academic literature:

  1. Verbal communication, which includes both oral and written.
  2. Non-verbal communication, e.g. facial expressions, body language etc.

You’ll learn more about these different communication types as you progress through the course. As a starting point, the following activity will give you the opportunity to reflect on when you’ve experienced them in both a positive and a negative way in the workplace.

Activity 1 My experience

Timing: Allow 15 minutes for this activity

Think of one example of good communication and one of bad communication that you have experienced in a work situation. Try to remember who it was with, how the information was delivered and how it made you feel.

List in the box below the reasons why you think one exchange went well and the other didn’t. Where the communication process wasn’t effective, consider what could have been done differently to improve it.

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When considering the positives and negatives of each interaction, did you focus on behaviours/facial expressions etc., or was it the language that was used that caused the exchange to go well or badly?

If you chose an example of written communication, for example an email, the relative success of the interaction will be linked to the words and tone used. Perhaps a friendlier tone, or closer attention to the details, could have improved the situation. Or maybe those elements were well done and made you feel positive.

In an oral exchange, it isn’t just about the words that are used, but the way they are delivered, the attitude of the deliverer etc. A smile and good eye contact can go a long way towards delivering a positive experience.

You’ll explore non-verbal and written communication in more detail later in the course.

In the workplace, developing effective communication skills will enable you to interact more effectively with colleagues and customers, as well as improving your chances of gaining promotion or securing new employment.

There is also significant evidence, from the 1970s onwards, to support a link between effective communication in the workplace and enhanced job satisfaction. Clampit and Girard (1993) analysed the construct of communication satisfaction and concluded that:

… communication satisfaction factors provide an effective way to distinguish between employees who are in the upper and lower parts of the spectrum in terms of both job satisfaction and self-estimates for productivity.

(Clampit and Girard, 1993)

More recently, a study of nurses in paediatric intensive care units – a particularly high-pressure working environment – also concluded that ‘There is a relationship between effective communication and job satisfaction that needs to be of a greater importance for organizations to achieve a higher success’ (Ibrahim et al., 2013).

It makes sense that if those around you are communicating effectively and you have a clear sense of what is expected of you and how you can contribute in the workplace – you are likely to feel more satisfied.

In the next section, you’ll explore what organisations can gain from effective communication.