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The Behaviors that Destroy Communication in Workplace (and How to Avoid Them)

The Behaviors that Destroy Communication in Workplace (and How to Avoid Them)
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I’m going to kick this article off by giving you examples of two kinds of people: these are generalizations of course, but the idea here is for you to get a clear picture in your head of these people and see how that makes you feel. Who knows—maybe you’ll see yourself in one of these examples, as self-reflection often comes in unexpected places, and realize that there are a few things you could work on. Then again, let’s not get too lofty.

The Worst Guy 1:

Heather storms into your office (or cubicle or what have you), and says “Please tell me you’re ready for the meeting this afternoon. I hope you are, because I haven’t had time to get any of the work done. I’ve been so slammed with this extra project that Jack gave me, you know Jack right, the head of marketing? Well, he gave me this project to work on and I just haven’t had time to prepare for this meeting, so you’d better be on the ball because we don’t want to look stupid do we? Anyways, it’s not like you’ve been busy have you, I mean, what do you make thirty two a year…?”

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As you can imagine, it goes on for a bit longer, and you don’t manage to get maybe one or two words in, if you’re lucky. Heather, in this example, is far too aggressive. She barges in and starts yapping without any regard to what you may have been working on or what you may have been doing. Not only that, she is completely unprepared for a meeting and expects you to carry her. To add icing to the aggressive/annoying/obnoxious cake that she has brought into your office, she says that the reason that she isn’t prepared is because she was given this extra project and, in a way, is implying that she is special for having been chosen to do it.

Basically everything about this approach to communicating in the workplace is wrong.

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The Worst Guy 2:

You’re at the machine in the copy room, making sure there are enough flyers advertising the softball team to go around (keep in mind that these are just examples and it doesn’t matter whether there is a softball team, or if you work in a real office, at all). Gary walks in and stands behind you. He hasn’t announced himself yet, or tapped you on the shoulder, but you know he’s there. You also know that he’s the shy sort and likely won’t announce himself, so you turn around. “Heya, Gary” you say. “Oh. Hey, you” he responds. “So. I know that we have the end of quarter analysis coming up and that we’re all going to be busy, but, I don’t know, do you think that you could hurry up with that spreadsheet? I mean, you don’t have to. I guess. I could do it. It’s only, you know, I have this vacation coming up and, well, I did kind of want to take it before the next quarter. I guess I don’t have to, go on vacation I mean, it’s just that…”

This isn’t as bad as Heather, for sure, but nearly. Gary, in this case, is much too passive. In fact, he’s well beyond passive and bordering on milquetoast. For those of you who don’t know what a milquetoast is, it’s the perfect way to describe people like Gary: wishy-washy pushovers who don’t seem to be able to stand up for themselves, but also can’t help but play the victim.

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Again, the examples were drastic, but the point was to get the type across. When dealing with office relationships you can’t come off as too aggressive (it never pays to be on everyone’s “people to kill” list), and passive doesn’t work either because you’ll never get the respect that you deserve.

There is a fragile balance in the workplace where communication is concerned, especially at modern shared workspaces where you may not be speaking to someone in the same company.

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Here are some short-but-helpful tips to keep in mind when it comes to coworker communication:

  1. Get to know your coworkers—taking the time to befriend the people you work with is time well spent, believe me. It’s always nice to have someone on your side, and a friendly work environment is more productive.
  2. Look for the positive—everyone has faults, but it’s often the case that someone’s faults can become positive attributes, when focused through the right lens.
  3. Goals are the key to a successful business relationship—this goes for clients as well as coworkers. If you find yourself having difficulty communicating with someone, approach them and try to find a common goal you can both work towards. You’ll be surprised how quickly the differences between you fade.
  4. Stand up for yourself—there always comes a point, unfortunately, when looking for positive traits, and commons goals just doesn’t work. It’s then that you have to stand up for yourself. Don’t submit to the Heathers of the world who expect you to do their work for them.
  5. 5. Keep the dialogue open—this goes for everyone. Whether you are having a phenomenal time with Heather, or are about to nudge Gary out of an open window, the lines of communication must be open; between you, your coworkers, and your boss. This is easier said than done, I know, but well worth the effort in the end.

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Published on July 27, 2021

15 Smart Video Conferencing Etiquette Tips to Follow

15 Smart Video Conferencing Etiquette Tips to Follow
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During the pandemic, video conferencing replaced in-person meetings and has now become the standard option for business meetings. Over the past 17 months, most workers have gotten past the video conferencing learning curve with Zoom or Microsoft Teams (or their platform of choice).

But just as with in-person meetings, attention can wax and wane. Some say we’re just not used to staring at ourselves so much on the screen. Instead of fixating on that, try employing smart video conferencing etiquette, or you may risk indiscretions that will flag you as a slacker.

Put the Pro in Professional

After more than a year of fine-tuning, here are the new rules of video conferencing etiquette.

1. Mute Your Mobile and Other Devices

The first video conference etiquette you need to know is muting your other devices. Just as in the pre-COVID days, someone’s obnoxious ring tone blaring Taylor Swift’s newest single in the middle of a meeting is also an annoyance if it happens during a Zoom meeting and so is the inevitable fumbling to turn off the sound. Even the apologies to the group get tiresome.

Also, when notifications are activated on the computer that you’re using for the meeting, the incoming message takes over the audio and you’ll miss out on snippets of the conversation. Be sure to eliminate this possible faux pas.

2. Dress the Part

While working from home, you may have fallen into the habit of slipping on your comfiest T-shirt each day. Hey, no judgments! But before you log on to your video conference, try to make an effort with your appearance.

Depending on your company culture and the importance of your meeting, consider dressing the part of the professional whom you wish to project. It will help you feel more self-assured, and others will likely take you more seriously.

For women, wear light make-up, put on earrings, and make sure your blouse is crisply pressed. For men, show up freshly shaved. Wearing a crisp collared shirt in a solid color will usually suffice.

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Pro Tip: Stay away from wearing white or black, unless those colors look great on you. Consider wearing light blue or brown instead.

3. Stage Your Workspace

Have you noticed the backdrops of experts interviewed on news shows? Bookshelves and photographs are carefully curated, and no busy-patterned furniture or artwork is in sight.

Take note of what appears behind you when you choose the location of your video conferences. Piles of junk mail on the table or stacks of folded laundry on the couch will convey more about your personal life than you care to share. Make sure you remove clutter from the camera’s eye, and present a tidy, orderly workspace to your colleagues, coworkers, and bosses.

4. Put Some Thought Into Lighting and Perspective

Be aware that in a video conference, your computer camera can actually make you look up to ten pounds heavier depending on where you sit. But you can easily drop those added pounds by moving back from the screen to diminish the wide-angle distortion.

Frame your head on the screen by tilting the screen up or down. Also, it’s best to not place yourself in front of a window or bright light, which makes you appear in shadow. Instead, face the light source, moving it (or yourself) until you have a flattering amount of illumination. You can also purchase some small spotlights that allow you to add light as needed.

Pro Tip: If your lights add too much redness to your skin, consider counter-balancing with a green filter.

Remember That Half of Life Is Showing Up

5. Arrive on Time

In the old days of in-person meetings, it was nearly impossible to slip in late into a meeting unnoticed. In today’s video conferences, logging in late still shows poor form. Instead, strive to arrive five minutes early and get yourself settled.

Once the meeting is underway, the host may be less attentive about late arrivals waiting to be let in. Diverting the host’s attention away from the meeting with a tardy entry request is the ultimate giveaway that you didn’t honor the schedule. If you don’t want a black mark against you, log in on time.

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6. Turn on Your Video

Few people like to see their face on the screen, but buck up and turn on your camera in video conferences. In most cases, it’s better to be a face on a screen than a name in a blank square. Your statements will be more memorable when other meeting attendees can see you.

If you need to turn off the video, either because of a poor connection, some commotion in the room, or a need for a quick break, give a short explanation via the chat feature. Then, go back on video as soon as you’re able.

Pro Tip: Keep your explanation for your departure pithy. “Sorry! Doorbell rang. Back in five” says it all. Be sure to honor what you say in chat and really do return in five minutes.

7. Plan Ahead Before Sharing Your Screen

Don’t be one of those people who makes everyone else wait as you click through folders in search of a document. That’s just poor video conferencing etiquette. If you know you’ll need to share a document or video on your screen, prepare by pulling it out of its folder and onto your desktop. Also, clean up the files and folders on your desktop to reduce clutter and facilitate easy access. Close other programs like chat, calendar notifications, and email. Disable pop-up notifications to ensure there’ll be no unforeseen distractions.

Be sure to remind the host before the meeting that you’ll need them to activate the screen-sharing function. Show courtesy once you’re finished by hitting “stop share” to return to the screen with participants.

Attend to the Pesky Details

8. Make Sure That Meetings Remain Right-Sized

With the easy accessibility of video conferencing, it can be tempting to extend the meeting invitation beyond the core group and include everyone peripherally involved in a project. But just as with in-person meetings, the more people involved, the more unwieldy the meeting becomes.

Use good judgment when asking others to sit through a video conference so that you don’t needlessly take up others’ time and so that participants can be fully engaged.

9. Remember to “Unmute” Before You Speak

Most of us are likely able to count on one hand the number of video conferences when someone didn’t have to be reminded, “You’re on mute!” Forgetting to unmute before speaking has become one of the most common missteps in video conferencing.[1]

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Show everyone your impeccable video-conferencing poise by managing your mute feature with flawless control.

10. Stay on Point to Keep the Meeting Length in Check

As with in-person meetings, an agenda with assigned time limits for discussions remains necessary to keep a meeting focused. Data shows, however, that video conferencing can actually reduce meeting time.[2] Reasons include the elimination of commuting time and the ability to screen share and annotate to keep everyone on task.

Additionally, side conversations are virtually impossible with video conferencing now that you can no longer have back-and-forth exchanges with the person beside you.

Pro Tip: If you’re running the meeting, let attendees know in advance the protocol for the chat feature. Is it okay for them to “chat among themselves” or not? (See point 11, as well.)

Talking Has a Time and a Place

11. Chat Appropriately

Just like side conversations or texting in an in-person meeting, the use of the chat feature during a video conference can be disrespectful unless it’s directed to all participants. Hence, it’s good video conferencing etiquette to mind your use of the chat.

At the start of the meeting, you may want to ask the host if it’s alright for participants to use the chat feature. This allows them to disable it if they choose. Used appropriately, it can be a helpful tool to clarify or amplify an earlier point once the conversation has moved on or to let the group know that you need to sign off early (and why).

12. Use the “Raise Hand” Feature to Avoid Interruptions

The slight lag in many video conferences can result in speaking over another person if you attempt to jump into a conversation. To avoid this awkward interruption, indicate when you have something to add to the discussion with the raise-your-hand feature that signals the host you would like to speak. This effective meeting management device makes video conferencing run more smoothly, especially with a large group, but it must be activated and monitored by the host.

Pro Tip: For meetings of six to ten people, sometimes the old-fashioned raising of your physical hand may be the best option. But it’s up to the meeting host. Ask them what they would prefer, and follow that.

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13. Don’t Record the Session or Take Photos Without Prior Permission

In this case, not sharing is caring. The “sharing culture” made popular through social media has little place in video conferencing. Before recording a meeting or capturing a screenshot of the participants, always ask for consent in advance from the full roster of attendees. Knowing that a video conference will be photographed or recorded could have a bearing on what others are willing to discuss.

Manage Yourself

14. Minimize Distractions

While de-activating audio and video features can keep distractions from affecting the other participants, you will need to manage noise and disruptions on your end to give your full attention to the meeting.

Move out of high-traffic zones in your home, keep your door closed, and ask family members to be considerate.

15. Save Snacking for Later

Save snacking for later—or earlier. Eating while on video conference is a no-no. Munching in front of the group while close to the camera—as you are when video conferencing—subjects the participants to an up-close and (too) personal view of your food consumption process.

However, it’s perfectly fine to sip quietly from a glass of water or cup of coffee or tea. If the meeting threatens to last for more than two hours, you may want to ask the host in advance to schedule a five-minute break at the halfway point.

Final Thoughts

Even though bosses are now beginning to ask workers to spend some of their workdays on-site, up to 80 percent will permit employees to work remotely at least part of the time, which means more video conferencing in your future.[3] Mastering these video conferencing etiquette tips will help you dial in—as well as dial back—your participation and demonstrate your unwavering level of engagement to the team.

Featured photo credit: Chris Montgomery via unsplash.com

Reference

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