The Three U’s of Effective Communication in the Workplace
Communication is Key
We look at one of the leading causes today of employee burnout – the single most damaging element in any relationship – at work or at home – is poor communication. Within the scope of employee burnout, if you could shift one thing, learning how to communicate more effectively would go a long way in preventing burnout.
I believe that one of the reasons employee burnout is growing rampant is because the way we communicate has changed so drastically in the last decade. We spend so much time communicating through text, message, email and phone, that some of the human elements necessary for good communication skills take a back seat. We live our lives through social media, losing the human elements of true social connection. If we want to solve the epidemic of employee burnout, we need to be human and relearn how to truly connect with the humans around us.
Learning how to communicate more effectively takes time and effort. While these three simple ideas are definitely not the be all, end all, they are easy to integrate as first steps.
Option 1: Understanding Email
One of the biggest sources of stress at work is the sheer volume of emails that people receive. Besides that, how many times have you received an email that made you feel bad? How many times have you sent an email that didn’t land quite the way you hoped? It’s easy to misinterpret tone when reading an email. It’s easy to let your emotions get in the way of sending an effective email. Likewise, if you aren’t clear in your email communications, it could lead to confusion, wasted time and productivity. If what you say is ambiguous or open to interpretation, the other person may understand something entirely different than what you were trying to relay.
Use email wisely! Make it a practice to consider a face-to-face or phone conversation, before sending each email. Before you begin writing an email, ask yourself: “Is this really necessary?” It may be quicker or more effective if you picked up the phone or stopped by your colleague’s desk to have a conversation. Added bonus is that your message is not just sitting in someone’s inbox while you wait. So, take a breath, smile and have a quick chat. People can feel your smile over the phone, you’ll have a real human interaction, and your message is less likely to be misinterpreted.
Important Note: Whenever possible, deliver bad news in person. This helps you to communicate with empathy, compassion, and understanding.
When sending emails:
- Be polite & professional. Be a bit more formal with work related email.
- Be clear & concise. Short sentences. Easy to read. Get to the point.
- Check the tone every time. Every single time.
Which email would you rather get?
I need that project today by 5PM.
Thanks for all your hard work on that project. I need to have it by 5PM today so we don’t miss the deadline.
Option 2: Understand the other person first.
You’ve heard the saying “you have two ears and one mouth, listen twice as much as you speak.” This takes practice and it gives you the opportunity to take the time needed to really start understanding the people you work with. When another person feels you understand them, they are far more likely to be open to understanding you. Willingness to understand begins with upgrading your listening skills but also involves generosity, respect, self-control, compassion and patience.
Here’s a challenge for you. For just one day, make it a goal to say as little as possible. Do not start a conversation. When you’re engaged in a conversation, only speak when asked a direct question and then make your answer as pleasant, short and concise as possible. As someone who used to speak four times as much as I listened, this activity really opened my eyes to the problem – me. Try doing this one day a week for a whole month. It will change your life.
Option 3: Un-Whine
Misery loves company right? It’s easy to jump of the whining band wagon at work. We’re all overworked, underpaid, unappreciated, and treated unfairly. While you might not be one to participate in the workplace bitch sessions, it’s easy enough to get drawn into them or dragged down by overhearing them. Remove yourself. It’s that simple. As much fun as it may seem to blow off steam like this, it is not doing you any good. Whining and worrying does not solve any problems. Ever. Instead it pulls you out of a productive state, it breeds negativity, and it just plain looks bad.
Consider this scenario. Maybe your week is going pretty well. You wish you had a bit more clarity around your role but you’re working on that. Your boss sent you an email that you felt was a bit rude, but you figured he must be having a tough day. You are finally getting on top of your project, still a bit stressed but you really have no major complaints at the moment. One coworker starts complaining that your boss gave her too much to do; another says she got a rude email from him, and another adds that he never appreciates anything… You get sucked in and everything you’ve accomplished goes right down the drain.
You go from positive to negative. You were a bit stressed, but the adrenaline kicked in and while you might not realize it, your body moved into fight or flight mode. Your brain starts brooding on negative thoughts about your role, your boss’ email, and your productivity goes down the drain.
It feels good to be accepted as part of the group by your peers. It’s in our DNA to do whatever is necessary to fit in – to be part of the tribe. The cast out, lone wolf does not survive without the pack. Find another way to fit in. Be kind. Be helpful. Be generous. Be grateful. Celebrate the small achievements of your coworkers. Bring cupcakes. Give attaboys. But when the whining starts, un-whine. Quietly slip out of the room. Every time.
CONCLUSION: Learning effective communication skills is a lifelong journey. When emotions run high, communication breaks down. Learning and integrating a few new ways to prevent miscommunication, negative communication, and compassionate communication can help you course correct. Small course corrections now, will lead to completely different – and more positive – outcomes down the road.
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