HR Management

Good Workplace Communication? It Means Good Workplace Performance

Photo illustration by Dreamstime.

Workplace communication isn’t easy.

Everything, from personal to business relationships, hinges on communication. Communicate too little, too much, or incorrectly and everything you’ve worked for can fall apart.

When people communicate properly, in a way that makes all parties feel heard, even conflict and criticism can be constructive and lead to positive results.

Humans are social creatures by nature. We work together, play together, and live together. Introverted or extroverted, we need to communicate on a daily basis with those around us.

Verbal and non verbal, quietly or loudly, we communicate at work with our co-workers, employees, and leaders. We communicate at home with our families and friends. We’ve been communicating our whole lives. And we’re going to keep on communicating.

So why is it often so difficult?

In business, a lack of workplace communication is sometimes inexplicable yet most always detrimental. People are hired for jobs that they are knowledgeable about, that they have the skills to perform. But if they can’t interact with those around them in a productive manner – then not much benefit is really achieved.

Whenever we speak to someone, we run the risk of not being able to get our point across without sending our message through numerous filters, like personal biases, difficult mediums, and external distractions.

The failure to communicate, so to speak, is one of the number one reasons for poor organizational culture, inefficiency, lost productivity, decreased engagement and reduced customer satisfaction. A lack of communication can lead to decreased innovation and negatively impact the bottom line.

How can we do to increase positive communication?

  • Providing feedback – Feedback is critical, both positive and negative. The balance between constructive and harmful criticism is a precarious one – and a once size fits all approach will not succeed. Say the wrong thing, and it can lower engagement, reduce trust and impact performance.

But don’t forget the positive feedback as well. Whether it’s creating a reward for outstanding work or just a simple “well done,” people need positive reinforcement just as much as critique. Not all people are the same. There’s no one key for universal success when it comes to constructive criticism – it comes down to having an understanding of what motivates individuals and knowing how they respond best to feedback.

  • Understanding differences — Diversity factors such as cultural and generational differences can make a difference. Believe me, working with a 20-something Millennial is a different kind of challenge than working with a Baby Boomer. Understanding how an individual’s cultural and diversity related views and feelings impact the way they see and hear things, in the world around them, impacts communication.

Adapting style may be necessary for success. Be respectful of the different ways people communicate and respond in kind within reason. It all comes back to getting to know the people you’re communicating with and being able to flex your communication style and approach for a given audience.

  • Really Listening – To put it simply, listening is critical. Whether you are the office intern and need to understand exactly what your boss wants in their coffee or the executive listening to employees comments, it’s critical to listen and seek to understand.

Some even suggest that with every office conversation, listen like there’s going to be a pop quiz at the end, and this skill can make or break your grade. Once you really listen, don’t neglect to also take action and follow-up as appropriate.

These few suggestions seem easy, but when put into practice, often it’s easier said than done.

Just remember, good communication leads to increased performance, employee engagement and retention, and a high performing culture.

And all of those lead to increased profits and long-term sustainability. So developing good communication skills and a good communication strategy is definitely worth it in the long run!

This was originally published on the Tolero Think Tank blog.

Scott Span, MSOD, is CEO & Lead Consultant of Tolero Solutions , an organizational improvement and strategy firm. He helps clients in facilitating sustainable growth by connecting and maximizing people --> performance --> profit™, developing people and creating organizations that are more responsive, productive and profitable. You can follow him on Twitter, or contact him via email at scott.span@tolerosolutions.com.
  • Julie Tierney

    So many critical areas touched on here. I feel like I’ve read too many articles/pieces which all mention the same critical area of communication that seems to be lacking and that is ‘Positive feedback’ is lacking or non-existent in the workplace. Why is this such a difficult concept/practice for people? You always hear the negative feedback and rarely, if ever, do people receive any positive feedback. It’s discouraging.

  • Debbra Ricci

    This is right on, Scott. Leadership needs to understand the importance of good communication to their organization’s engagement, team collaboration and ultimately their profitability. Study after study tells us, employees would rather be “asked the right questions” rather than simply being told what to do. It all relates to giving them a voice, a safe environment to express it and then using their contributions to make a difference for the organization as a result. When this is accomplished, they see that they are both encouraged and rewarded to be “engaged”. They get more engaged, they produce more innovative ideas or solutions and best of all, they attract other engaged people who want to be likeminded. Who wins…every one! The key is to get people “talking” inside the organization.

  • Scott Span

    @1ba09222fa4b6b96c50f5b89148c7f6b:disqus Thanks for your insights. Your point of “employee voice” is imperative to high engagement and performance. We all want to feel heard, it’s a fundamental human need!

    @julie_tierney:disqus I’ve witnessed the same, perhaps more organizations should take an Appreciative Inquiry approach to feedback, and then measure how hearing the good and not just hearing the bad, impacts performance. We as customers can also take a similar view. We complain when we have bad experiences, however rarely share when we have good ones. I actually just wrote a recent article on that topic – http://goo.gl/QXBiUx – bad news should not always be the only news heard!