In uncertain times, it’s more important than ever for managers to both demonstrate and encourage effective communication in the workplace
CREDIT: This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared on Robert Half
Poor communication can result in distrust, conflict and even employee turnover. On the flip side, strong employee communication can be a great retention tool — this is key, as 81% of employers are concerned about holding on to top talent, according to recent research commissioned by Robert Half.
Good communication can boost morale and productivity and engender loyalty. Do you find some members of your team seem to be constantly frustrated? Is there suddenly an unhealthy amount of office gossip? Is morale suffering?
These may be signs that the lines of communication are becoming congested. Here are six ways to fix the problem — or, even better, prevent it in the first place.
Keep information flowing
Employees might worry when they don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes, creating an environment in which speculation takes root and rumours thrive; if you don’t give people information, they’re going to start guessing. This doesn’t mean employees have to know everything you know, but keeping the team informed about issues that may affect them creates a sense of transparency – it lifts the fog.
Even though you’re a workplace leader, and you don’t want to blur the line between authority and friendship, easy access is important, especially in developing situations. This can be achieved by leaving your office door open, when possible, and regularly updating staff. In times of uncertainty you may want to provide a time for questions during a meeting, or offer a way to submit the questions people might be thinking about but are afraid to ask – anonymously, if need be.
Choose the right time for the intended message
Even when the need to communicate a message is apparent, the time and place to deliver it may not be. Which will be more effective? Announcing something in a weekly meeting, during a one-to-one conversation, or through an office email? Consider how the information will affect employees individually and collectively. For example, is it better to directly approach one of your employees about adhering to deadlines, or is the problem more widespread, justifying an email to the entire team?
Use the right tone
The words you choose, and your tone of voice, can impact the effectiveness of your communication – your delivery and approach are key. You don’t have to sugarcoat things, but it’s better to address a problem with a solution than to sound as though you are badgering.
Beware of nonverbal cues
Think beyond the words. Chances are, your employees are seeking your approval — or at least looking to avoid your disapproval. Body language can send subtle or strong messages so, as busy as you may be, take the time to make proper eye contact,, or give a friendly nod when you walk by people in the office. When they come to you with a question, don’t just tell them you’re listening; show that you respect them by looking at them while they speak.
Obstacles are normal, particularly in an uncertain climate, but effective communication creates transparency and enables problems to be resolved more efficiently.