Effective communication in the workplace
Effective communication in the workplace

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Effective communication in the workplace

2 Why is communication important in the workplace?

To start, watch this video of Rebecca Fielding, an experienced recruiter and owner of talent consultancy Gradconsult, explaining the importance of communication skills in the workplace.

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Transcript: Video 2

So amongst all of the skills that employers look for in leaders in particular, but in all employees, communication skills are very high. There are very few jobs that you can do without needing to communicate with colleagues or with customers. In fact, I can't really even think of one, to be honest. There's always a need to share what you're doing, what you're up to, what you're working on, any challenges or problems that you might have, and to engage with people.
Now certainly, in certain roles, it's much more important than others, but it's one of those absolutely key things that runs through every element of employment and employability. Your ability to engage and communicate with other people, that's absolutely critical. And I would say every role I've recruited for, it's been important. And that's not just in terms of written communication. Verbal communication is just as important as well.
End transcript: Video 2
Video 2
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For all organisations, ensuring effective communication is essential. This includes both internal communication with staff and external communication, e.g. with customers or suppliers.

For the purposes of this course, you’ll focus primarily on internal communication, although much of the content will be equally relevant to communicating with customers.

Internal communication

As you’ve already seen in the previous discussion about job satisfaction and productivity, effective communication gives clear benefits to the individual, but there are significant benefits for the organisation too.

If communication is poor, reduced job satisfaction and productivity can have a significant impact on the business.

For example, when 4,000 people were surveyed by Think Feel Know Coaching, 46% said that they were ‘unsure of what was being asked of them by their line manager when given tasks’. The same study estimated that up to 40 minutes per individual, per day were wasted because of this. Using these figures, an average company with 1,000 employees could have as many as 83 people doing nothing every day (Woods, 2010).

When there is uncertainty or change within an organisation, employees can feel ill-informed about the effects on their roles. If their concerns are not addressed and vital information is not communicated, staff morale will be affected. This can lead to a lack of trust and engagement, which can result in low productivity and absenteeism.

For an organisation to embrace effective communication, every individual must play their part – from senior managers to new trainees.

Sometimes, miscommunication is the problem. To avoid this, the video in Activity 2 suggests some simple rules.

Activity 2 Miscommunication

Timing: Allow 20 minutes for this activity

Watch the following TedEd video on miscommunication. When you’ve watched it, use the box below to summarise your understanding of the four practices they suggest.

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Transcript: Video 3

Have you ever talked with a friend about a problem, only to realise that he just doesn't seem to grasp why the issue is so important to you? Have you ever presented an idea to a group, and it's met with utter confusion? Or maybe you've been in an argument when the other person suddenly accuses you of not listening to what they're saying at all.
What's going on here? The answer is miscommunication. And in some form or another, we've all experienced it. It can lead to confusion, animosity, misunderstanding, or even crashing a multimillion dollar probe into the surface of Mars.
The fact is, even when face-to-face with another person in the very same room and speaking the same language, human communication is incredibly complex.
But the good news is that a basic understanding of what happens when we communicate can help us prevent miscommunication.
For decades, researchers have asked, "What happens when we communicate?" One interpretation, called the transmission model, views communication as a message that moves directly from one person to another, similar to someone tossing a ball and walking away. But in reality, this simplistic model doesn't account for communication's complexity.
Enter the transactional model, which acknowledges the many added challenges of communicating. With this model, it's more accurate to think of communication between people as a game of catch. As we communicate our message, we receive feedback from the other party. Through the transaction, we create meaning together.
But from this exchange, further complications arise. It's not like the Star Trek universe, where some characters can Vulcan mind meld, fully sharing thoughts and feelings. As humans, we can't help but send and receive messages through our own subjective lenses.
When communicating, one person expresses her interpretation of a message, and the person she's communicating with hears his own interpretation of that message. Our perceptual filters continually shift meanings and interpretations.
Remember that game of catch? Imagine it with a lump of clay. As each person touches it, they shape it to fit their own unique perceptions based on any number of variables, like knowledge or past experience, age, race, gender, ethnicity, religion, or family background.
Simultaneously, every person interprets the message they receive based on their relationship with the other person and their unique understanding of the semantics and connotations of the exact words being used. They could also be distracted by other stimuli, such as traffic--
--or a growling stomach. Even emotion might cloud their understanding. And by adding more people into a conversation, each with their own subjectivities, the complexity of communication grows exponentially.
So as the lump of clay goes back and forth from one person to another, reworked, reshaped, and always changing, It's no wonder our messages sometimes turn into a mush of miscommunication.
But luckily, there are some simple practises that can help us all navigate our daily interactions for better communication. One, recognise that passive hearing and active listening are not the same. Engage actively with the verbal and nonverbal feedback of others, and adjust your message to facilitate greater understanding.
Two, listen with your eyes and ears, as well as with your gut. Remember that communication is more than just words.
Three, take time to understand as you try to be understood. In the rush to express ourselves, it's easy to forget that communication is a two-way street. Be open to what the other person might say.
And finally four, be aware of your personal perceptual filters. Elements of your experience, including your culture, community, and family, influence how you see the world. Say, "This is how I see the problem. But how do you see it?" Don't assume that your perception is the objective truth. That'll help you work towards sharing a dialogue with others to reach a common understanding together.
End transcript: Video 3
Video 3
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The four practices suggested are as follows:

  • Recognise that there is a difference between passive hearing and active listening.
  • Listen with your eyes and ears as well as your gut.
  • Take time to understand the perspective of the person/people you are talking to.
  • Try to be aware of your own perceptual filters.

The next time you are discussing a difficult issue with a group of colleagues, try to put these ideas into practice. You could even share them with the rest of the group. See if it makes a difference.

You’ll learn more about active listening in Week 2.

When considering how to improve your overall communication skills, it can be useful to have an understanding of the theory behind the communication process itself. In the next section, you’ll explore this in more detail.


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