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If You Want to Be Successful at Work, Polish Your Communication Skills First

If You Want to Be Successful at Work, Polish Your Communication Skills First

Most of us spend the majority of our day communicating with people at work, but we rarely stop and think about whether or not we’re actually good at communication.

With any other skill, you’d be constantly looking for ways to grow and develop.

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So why not communication?

It’s been shown that businesses with effective communication are 50% more likely to have lower employee turnover [1]. Good communication skills also make work more enjoyable, reduce the risk of projects going wrong, and reduce workplace conflicts.

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It takes hard work and dedication to learn to communicate well. Start with the essential workplace communication skills below. We’ll talk about

  • How to manage conflict
  • How to listen better
  • How to deal with cultural differences
  • How to receive criticism
  • How to give helpful feedback

How to manage conflict

Managing conflict at work is all about staying calm, listening carefully to everyone’s point of view, and being as understanding as possible [2]. Next time you’re hit with a difficult conflict at work, try the following steps:

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  • Stay calm. If possible, take a short break from the conflict and do something relaxing/fun, like meditating, reading or taking a short walk. You’ll be better able to deal with the issue when you’re not angry or annoyed.
  • Listen. Give everyone involved in the conflict a chance to state their case. Use active listening techniques, like repeating part of what somebody says back to them, to show that you’re fully engaged.
  • Be understanding. Show that you can empathise with your coworkers. Instead of saying, “Why wasn’t the report finished on time?”, say something like, “I understand that you’ve had a lot on your plate and might be struggling.”
  • Never make it personal. Instead of saying, “You’re always late to meetings!”, say, “It’s really important that we start the meeting on time.”
  • Find a solution together. By getting everyone involved in working out a solution, nobody will feel they’ve been treated unfairly. Once the issue is worked out, do something positive together, like having a coffee or watching a funny video. It’s always best to end on a positive note.

How to listen better

Active listening in the workplace is really important. Try the following techniques to ensure you don’t appear bored or disinterested when talking to others [3].

  • Make eye contact and smile. Staring off into space is a big no-no.
  • Check your posture. Face towards the person you’re speaking to, maybe leaning forward slightly or turning your head to one side.
  • Ask questions. This shows that you’re actively engaged and thinking deeply about what’s being said to you.
  • Repeat or summarize information. This reassures the listener that you’re paying attention and understanding fully.

How to deal with cultural differences

Having a diverse range of employees can be really good for a company, but can also cause issues. You might find that members of the team have different ideas about what’s acceptable and what’s not. Head off any potential problems by keeping communication open, emphasising the positives of having a team made up of so many unique individuals, and catering to the cultural needs of every employee.

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How to receive criticism

Receiving criticism can be really tough, especially when you’ve worked hard on a project. Make the process easier by following these steps.

  • Remember that it’s nothing personal. Even the most successful people make mistakes, and this is how we grow and improve.
  • Focus on constructive criticism. If you receive a comment that doesn’t help you to improve, ignore it. Focus on criticism that actually helps you.
  • Make a plan. Break down what you need to do to improve into small, simple steps. That might mean rewriting the report one section at a time, taking a course to improve your skills, or asking for more support at work.

How to give helpful feedback

Giving feedback sometimes feels as hard as receiving it – nobody wants to hurt a coworkers feelings. When giving feedback be clear and concise – get to the point, rather than skirting around the issue. Make comments with the intention of helping your coworker, rather than insulting them. Instead of saying, “Your formatting is all wrong,” say, “This would look even better with the correct formatting.” Avoiding words like ‘you’ makes your coworker feel less attacked.

Good communication skills are essential regardless of where you work. Start learning now and you’ll be in for a much easier and more enjoyable career.

Reference

More by this author

Eloise Best

Eloise is an everyday health expert and runs My Vegan Supermarket, a vegan blog and database of supermarket products.

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Last Updated on August 6, 2020

Why Working 9 to 5 Is Outdated

Why Working 9 to 5 Is Outdated

Bristol is the most congested city in England. Whenever I have to work at the office, I ride there, like most of us do. Furthermore, I always make sure to go at off hours; otherwise, the roads are jam-packed with cars, buses, bikes, even pedestrians. Why is that? Because everyone is working a traditional 9 to 5 work day.

Where did the “9 to 5” Come From?

It all started back in 1946. The United States government implemented the 40 hour work week for all federal employees, and all companies adopted the practice afterwards. That’s 67 years with the same schedule. Let’s think about all the things that have changed in the 67 years:

  • We went to the moon, and astronauts now live in space on the ISS.

  • Computers used to take up entire rooms and took hours to make a single calculation. Now we have more powerful computers in our purses and back pockets with our smartphones.

  • Lots of employees can now telecommute to the office from hundreds, and even thousands of miles away.

In 1946 a 9-5 job made sense because we had time after 5pm for a social life, a family life. Now we’re constantly connected to other people and the office, with the Internet, email on our smartphones, and hashtags in our movies and television shows. There is no downtime anymore.

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Different Folks, Different Strokes

Enjoying your downtime is an important part of life. It recharges your batteries and lets you be more productive. Allowing people to balance life and work can provide them with much needed perspective and motivation to see the bigger picture of what they are trying to achieve.

Some people are just more productive when they’re working at their optimal time of day, after feeling well rested and personally fulfilled.  For some that can be  from 4 a.m. to 9 a.m; for others, it could be  2 p.m. to 7 p.m.

People have their own rhythms and routines. It would be great if we could sync our work schedule to match. Simply put, the imposed 8-hour work day can be a creativity and morale killer for the average person in today’s world.

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Productivity and Trust Killer

Fostering creativity among employees is not always an easy endeavor, but perhaps a good place to start is by simply not tying their tasks and goals to a fixed time period. Let them work on their to-do list at their own pace, and chances are, you’ll get the best out of your employee who feels empowered instead of babysat.

That’s not to say that you should  allow your team to run wild and do whatever they want, but restricting them to a 9 to 5 time frame can quickly demoralize people. Set parameters and deadlines, and let them work at their own creative best with the understanding that their work is crucial to the functioning of the entire team.

Margaret Heffernan, an entrepreneur who previously worked in broadcasting, noted to Inc that from her experience, “treating employees like grown-ups made it more likely that they would behave the same way.” The principle here is to have your employees work to get things done, not to just follow the hands on the clock.

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A Flexible Remote Working Policy

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer famously recalled all her remote workers, saying she wanted to improve innovation and collaboration, but was that the right decision? We’ve all said that we’re often more productive in a half day working from home than a full day working in the office, right? So why not let your employees work remotely from home?

There are definitely varying schools of thought on remote working. Some believe that innovation and collaboration can only happen in a boardroom with markers, whiteboards and post-it notes and of course, this can be true for some. But do a few great brainstorms trump a team that feels a little less stressed and a little more free?

Those who champion remote working often note that these employees are not counting the clock, worried about getting home, cooking dinner or rushing through errands post-work. No one works their 9-5 straight without breaks here and there.  Allowing some time for remote working means employees can handle some non-work related tasks and feel more accomplished throughout the day. Also, sometimes we all need to have a taste of working in our pajamas, right?

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It’ll be interesting to see how many traditional companies and industries start giving their employees more freedom with their work schedule. And how many end up rescinding their policies like Yahoo did.

What are your thoughts of the traditional 9-5 schedule and what are you doing to help foster your team’s productivity and creativity? Hit the comments and let us know.

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