Communication in the workplace
Communication has a significant impact in the workplace in terms of how things are done, when and by whom.
If we don’t communicate appropriately, issues can arise which affect performance, culture, teams, relationships and leadership capacity.
Poor communication within organisations is particularly evident when change processes are occurring. For example, when people are not informed about changes taking place, a lack of trust can influence performance, culture and relationships.
The following communication styles provide a starting point to better understand workplace communication:
People tend to have a preference for one style over the other.
Using different styles in different contexts requires a high level of self-awareness and is known as assertive context specific.
Open vs closed
- Freely express and seek opportunities to engage whether there is a need or not
- Useful for team meetings and to gain rapport with others
- More “sociable” members of the workplace but can be perceived as ‘distractors’
- Less appropriate when working towards tight deadlines.
- Tend to avoid communication unless there is both something to communicate, and the need for it to be done immediately
- Useful for tasks with clear direction that need to be done right away
- Less social and more task focused
- Can be perceived as ‘aloof’
- Less useful when trying to explain things to people, or when you need to explore ideas with others and get their opinions.
Direct vs indirect
- Say it as it is – quite a culturally specific concept and can be efficient, however also can be perceived as ‘abrasive’ by other types
- Useful when there is only one way to do things or you have tight deadlines
- Appropriate when you’re the expert, or when the listener prefers that style.
- Will rarely express a point according to their true opinion
- Individual may talk around the issue, with implicit expectation of the problem itself
- Can be perceived by other types as ‘frustrating and confusing’, especially for those who are time poor, or in roles where quick, firm decisive action is regularly required
- Useful when you need commitment from your team or want to learn something from an expert
- Useful when dealing with complex, emotionally laden issues where setting the scene and providing support and trust is important.
Aggressive vs passive
- Sticking up for your rights no matter how it affects the rights and feelings of others
- Often characterised by a basic disregard of the rights of others, lack of consideration
- Can be Closed (passive aggression) or Open
- Can be confused with direct communicators
- Aggression creates arousal in both parties, which means what you’re trying to say is likely to get lost.
- Compliant and often submissive
- Often puts themselves down and praises others
- Avoidance of expressing one’s own opinion to prevent conflict, or involvement in issues
- Can result in being taken advantage of
- Often feels like a victim.
Assertive Context Specific
This is an adaptive communication style that balances the needs and respects the rights of your own, the organisation and other people.
- An ability to read social contexts
- An ability to connect with, understand and listen to others
- Understand the communication styles of others and how to manage these
- Self-awareness and an ability to regulate your own response and internal experiences
- An ability to express your view confidently.
Identifying and understanding the communication styles that you, your colleagues and your manager use can provide a starting point to improving your communication in the workplace.
If you’d like to better understand and harness your communication skills, Caraniche offers a range of training courses to support the professional development of frontline workers, clinicians, supervisors, team leaders and managers, Assertiveness and Communication Skills.