Conflict management can be a useful tool for every company. Despite the best of efforts, most companies will likely experience conflicts of varying seriousness between employees. These conflicts must be resolved as quickly as possible, and in a way that will satisfy all parties. How can you best achieve de-escalation? What types of conflict are there? We provide the answers.
Communication in professional life is important, nobody would disagree with that. However, many people focus their efforts on maintaining good communication with customers only, forgetting to focus on workplace relationships. While focusing on customers is important, it is of little use if things are not going well in the actual company. That’s why good workplace communication is so crucial: It’s only when colleagues interact with each other in the right way and speak openly to one another, that the whole company can move forward. But how can you ensure proper communication in the workplace?
- Advantages of good communication at work
- Effective communication in the workplace: How does it work?
- Ensuring good communication in the workplace
Advantages of good communication at work
Communication in the workplace affects various aspects of work life. On the one hand, you have to consider who is talking to whom: Does communication at work take place at the same level, i.e. between colleagues of the same rank or is there a hierarchical gradient? On the other hand, it must be viewed in the context of the entire company, as well as in relation to each individual.
If communication between colleagues or between bosses and their employees is poor, problems can arise quickly. However, if you take the time to have discussions and communicate openly with each other, misunderstandings and the resulting conflicts shouldn’t arise in the first place. At the same time, if one person expresses themselves unclearly, this can lead to misinterpretation and could result in conflict. In these situations, improved workplace communication can help. Communication training can help people understand each other better.
However, conflicts don’t always crop up because of concrete problems. Emotions are often behind problems in the workplace. Processing and verbalising negative emotions before they grow into real conflicts is part of a positive workplace communication strategy. If an employee has the feeling that others – particularly superiors – are listening to them and making an effort to understand them, it may help contain and resolve an issue.
Conversations strengthen interpersonal ties. A good bond within the team can therefore be a motivating factor for employees. If an employee perceives their team as important to their work, rather than seeing themselves as a lone fighter, the willingness to develop as a team also increases. This applies to a small team as well as an entire company. If everyone communicates openly with each other, there are no interpersonal barriers and everyone is headed in the same direction. In this kind of atmosphere, everyone is willing to give more.
If superiors take the time to deal with each individual employee, they can get a better understanding of individual strengths and weaknesses. In this way, tasks can be better distributed, further training can be used in a targeted manner, and talents can be promoted. Teams can also be put together in a more effective way if the employees know each other well through proper workplace communication. Different individuals with different abilities can therefore work together in a coherent way. These adjustments can improve the productivity of the entire company.
Another factor in the context of productivity is creativity: Conversations fuel new ideas, encouraging creativity and an open and positive atmosphere. With fresh ideas, tasks can be completed better and faster. This does not only apply within a team, but also to the exchange of ideas between different departments up to the management levels, which can move a company forward. New faces can often bring fresh, innovative ideas to the table.
While the points mentioned above are mainly advantageous from the company’s perspective, every employee can also benefit from improved communication skills. If you communicate well in your job and know how to express yourself correctly, this can be a great career boost. This is especially true if you want to take up a leadership position, as employers pay close attention to communication skills, because with a hierarchical structure, unpleasant topics sometimes have to be brought up.
Those who generally avoid these situations or do not react constructively during discussions do not show leadership qualities. If, on the other hand, you demonstrate good communication skills in the workplace, you will be more likely to get noticed for a promotion.
Effective communication in the workplace: How does it work?
What does good workplace communication look like? A lot has to do with openness towards one another, but also with expressing yourself correctly. Some less obvious factors also play a role.
Not communicating is not really possible because even if someone doesn’t speak, they can send out signals that can be interpreted either positively or negatively by others. It is therefore important to pay close attention to your body language.
Open interaction is the be-all and end-all of a positive communication culture. Conflicts can only be resolved quickly if employees and superiors are honest with one another. Far too often, however, curiosity, gossip, or even bullying occur in the workplace. People talk about colleagues behind their backs or deliberately withhold information in order to gain an advantage over them. This does not result in a productive working environment. Instead, you should get issues out of the way as quickly as possible, by confronting them head on in a friendly manner.
Openness also plays an important role in discussion culture: Constructive discussions can only develop if you recognise the other’s opinion as a possible solution. If you stubbornly stick to your own point of view, projects will inevitably come to a standstill. If, on the other hand, all sides approach each other’s ideas openly, they can fuel each other and strengthen both creativity and productivity.
Poor communication at work does not always have to do with unwillingness or bad intentions, but often with inability. If the necessary clarity is lacking in conversations, this can quickly lead to misunderstandings or to misinterpreted information being spread. It is therefore important to pay attention to clear wording. Whether it’s in an email, during a meeting, or a conversation at the coffee machine: Hiding your intent behind empty words is always counterproductive. Complicated topics related to work need particularly detailed explanations so that the person receiving the information doesn’t get confused. Above all, this means that you have to take your time. Repetitions and inquiries can also help make complex facts clearer.
Concerns must be expressed by both employees and employers, either in written or spoken form. An inconsiderate tone can quickly be misinterpreted and give the wrong impression that you disagree with your colleagues. Clear language helps to avoid conflicts.
Friendliness, courtesy, and mutual respect are a must – whether among peers or between superiors and subordinates: You should always meet at eye level. There is nothing that creates a bad atmosphere quicker than a lack of respect. Many people in management positions tend to adopt an aggressive leadership style to underpin their authority but alternative strategies are more successful: When managers treat their employees with respect, they are much happier at work and more willing to go above and beyond their required duties. Nevertheless, respect goes both ways, all employees should also strive to treat their bosses and colleagues with respect.
Communication in the workplace is not a one-way street: If you say something you should also be able to listen. The ability to listen to others is just as important as a clear way of expressing yourself. This is similar to openness, but listening goes even further. Leave time for each person to make their contribution, use empathy, and really listen and respond to what has been said. This is different to just sitting there quietly while someone else is talking. Understanding is the decisive factor – both in professional and emotional conversations. Even if you don’t understand straightaway, saying something supporting such as ‘Your opinion is interesting to me’ also sends out positive signals.
Nobody is perfect. Everyone knows that, but only a few care to admit it. Admitting mistakes provides a good basis for workplace communication. Those who apologise honestly have a disarming effect: The open admission of an error lets others sympathise with you. Many often assume that this is a sign of weakness, but it’s quite the opposite. Those who admit their mistakes and deal with the consequences show strength. Sweeping mistakes under the carpet in the hope that they will never be found is a real sign of weakness.
Ensuring good communication in the workplace
Once you have realised why good communication is important in the workplace and what distinguishes it, it’s easier to establish a constructive discussion culture in your own company. Various techniques have proven their worth in the past.
In many companies, meetings are perceived as a nuisance because they cost time and are of little use: While one person speaks, the others sit around more or less bored. However, it does not have to be this way. Open meetings, in which everyone can participate, establish a discussion culture fuelled by interesting contributions. Everyone should be actively invited to participate in discussions, ask questions, and present their own ideas.
Not everyone can spontaneously convey complex matters. This is why emails and other documents are suitable for sorting thoughts neatly and formulating them clearly. This avoids misunderstandings. However, emails should always be the basis for further discussions. Questions can be asked and answered much better face-to-face. Focusing on purely written communication becomes a one-way street, making constructive discussions impossible.
Some employees feel uncomfortable talking in large groups. In order to give these people the chance to get involved, regular one-on-one talks help. This does not always have to be between a manager and an employee; productive discussions can also be held between two ordinary colleagues. The conversation in a small group not only helps some people talk more openly, but also supports listening. If you are distracted more quickly in large groups, you may pay more attention to your counterpart in a one-on-one conversation. Uncertainties can also be eliminated directly, because the listener can ask questions without worrying about talking in front of others.
Various tools can help to ensure that information is transmitted completely and correctly. The first is the language itself. Simple formulations make it easier for the listener to grasp what is being said. If you use sophisticated phrases and obscure imagery or metaphors, you might show off your eloquence, but might not get your information across clearly – and that should be much more important in workplace communication.
However, other things can help convey the facts more easily: Visual media, for example, has the ability to attract attention and simplify matters. With a diagram or a graphic, you can support your verbal explanations. At the same time, body language plays a role in effective communication that should not be underestimated. Above all, positive signals like smiles and eye-contact ensure a good atmosphere and greater willingness to pay attention. An appropriate gesture, which supports the verbal contribution, provides additional clarity.
It might sound trivial, but it can really help. If you communicate in a friendly manner, the person you are speaking to will be more willing to participate constructively. In addition to a cheerful facial expression, little jokes also help to create a good mood. At the same time, you should radiate self-confidence. This applies first and foremost to individuals in leading positions. Self-confidence also has positive effects among your colleagues: If you doubt yourself, the other employees will also be suspicious of what you say.
You can learn to communicate well – either through years of professional experience or in the form of training, workshops, or reading. Step-by-step, you will learn how to improve your communication in the workplace, from body language to the structure of a lecture. For special positions (like freelancers or executives) there are many tailor-made courses that deal with specific challenges. In addition, it is less effective to let every employee work on communication for themselves, but instead more useful to bring the entire team together in a group workshop.