Communicate Clearly Within the Workplace

Clear and effective communication is the key to success in the workplace. It’s at the basis of every email, presentation, and meeting. Struggling to interact with your boss, co-workers, or colleagues can cause anxiety, and it may adversely affect your work. But if you use your words well, employ proper body language, and develop your self-confidence, you’ll enjoy great communication skills for the rest of your career.


Using Your Words

  1. Speak clearly and assertively. When engaging in direct conversation with your co-workers, use active verbs and simple language to make sure everyone’s on the same page. Avoid filler words such as “uh” or “um,” and don’t mumble.[1]
  2. Listen to your co-workers. Good communication is a two-way street. Ask open-ended (instead of yes-or-no) questions of the people with whom you work, and take note of their answers. Follow up with them and remain engaged in ongoing conversations.[2]
    • Personal conversations can provide a good foundation for more comfortable interactions about work. Your boss might tell you that their daughter is participating in a soccer tournament. A few days later, take the time to check in on how the tournament went.
  3. Avoid gossip. Whenever you’re part of a group of people who know things about one another, it can be tempting to talk about others behind their backs. This can only create negative feelings in the workplace, and it will almost certainly make it more difficult to communicate with your co-workers in a positive fashion. Communication should be about building bridges between people, rather than breaking them down.
  4. Ensure accuracy to build trust. Take the time to proofread your writing and double check your information. Spelling and grammatical errors can be a sign of laziness or lack of care, while mistakenly misrepresenting facts can lead to embarrassing results for you and your co-workers. If you develop a reputation for inaccuracy, your fellow workers may stop trusting your work.
    • This is especially important for written communications and visual presentations. When mistakes are written down, they’re easier for your audience to catch and harder for them to forget.
  5. Share information that’s specific and detail-oriented. Whether you’re writing an email to your supervisor or updating your boss on the status of your latest assignment, your co-workers want access to the most up-to-date and clear knowledge possible. If your colleagues know they can rely on you to provide specifics, they’ll come to you first with questions.[3]
    • It can be difficult to know how specific is specific enough. Take a critical look at your interactions, and ask yourself whether you’re leaving your fellow workers with more questions than answers. Don’t just say that a project is going well. Instead, inform your manager that you’ve reached or exceeded your selling goals, and provide them with exact numbers.
  6. Keep your communications brief. The old adage that time is money applies to all profit-driven organizations. Make sure your spoken and written communications impart information as quickly as possible. While you should be sharing relevant details, do so without making your peers sift through unnecessary or redundant information.
    • Think about your audience and who needs what information. Your boss may only be interested in the bottom-line results of your work, while co-workers at your own level may need to know the challenges you met along the way.
  7. Respond to emails quickly. In today’s workplace, a large amount of communication occurs via email. Respond to emails within one to two business days, and don’t let your inbox get backed up. If your co-workers know they can rely on you for a quick response, they’ll be more likely to reach out with questions or comments.[4]

Using Your Body

  1. Maintain eye contact. When you’re having a face-to-face conversation with a colleague, focusing on their eyes and face is the best way to let them know you’re listening. If you extend your officemates this courtesy, they’ll do the same for you.[5]
    • Some people may find it difficult or uncomfortable to look directly into others’ eyes. Try practicing on friends and family, or focus on a spot on your co-worker’s face that’s very near their eyes.
  2. Sustain good posture. Slouching not only closes off your body, it’s also associated with laziness and unprofessionalism. Try rolling your shoulders back a few times and opening your chest when you’re sitting and standing. You’ll look more approachable, and your back won’t hurt as much at the end of the workday.
  3. Ditch the electronics before and during in-person meetings. If you’re waiting for a meeting to start, consider jotting down some notes rather than burying your nose in your phone. This will make it easy for you to immediately engage others in a conversation when they enter the room. Always keep your attention on the people with whom you’re communicating.
    • Do not, under any circumstances, check your electronics while others are speaking. This is the fastest and easiest way to shut down mutual respect, and it will surely affect your future interactions with your co-workers.
  4. Smile to encourage open interaction. Smiling will make your colleagues feel more comfortable around you, and psychologists suggest that it makes you happier on a day-to-day basis. While you shouldn’t paste a fake smile on your face every time you walk into the office, you can smile when you greet and thank people, or when they ask you how you’re doing. This will inject positivity and openness into your workplace.[6]
  5. Use active body language when listening. Nod and tilt your head when others are speaking so as to provide them with constant visual cues that you’re following along and engaged with the material. You can also take notes, making sure to periodically look up from your notebook.[7]
  6. Dress for success. While everyone is entitled to their own personal style, wearing formal attire at work can lead to better communication between co-workers. Your superiors, in particular, may be more likely to take you seriously and interact with you as an equal if you’re dressing with care while on the job.[8]

Developing Confidence at Work

  1. Look around at others’ work habits. One of the hardest aspects of being confident at work is feeling like you’re not measuring up. Observe co-workers at your level, and take note of what they’re doing. Ask yourself if you’re putting similar care and effort into your own tasks. If you are, reassure yourself that you’re doing what you need to do to contribute to the success of your organization.
  2. Believe the compliments you receive. Most supervisors don’t give praise freely. If they’re giving you accolades for your work, don’t doubt that they feel you deserve it. Be sure not to diminish what you’ve accomplished by giving credit to someone else or saying that the task “wasn’t that difficult.”
  3. Make a list of your strengths and successes. Writing down the things at which you excel will remind you why you were offered your job in the first place. This will also help you remember what you have to offer your colleagues. Being armed with this knowledge will make it easier for you to interact with them as co-contributors to the mission of your company.
  4. Make a different list of your weaknesses. It’s just as important to be humble about how you can improve as it is to recognize your capabilities. If you’re aware of the tasks and skills that you find challenging, you can address them with a sense of calm preparedness. If your co-workers see that you’re self-aware about your faults, they’ll be more likely to share constructive feedback with you -- and to elicit it so they can improve themselves as well!
  5. Learn from your mistakes. Over the course of your career, it’s almost inevitable that you’ll make a mistake or have a bad day. Rather than dwelling on these mistakes, add them to your list of future spots for improvement, and view them as learning opportunities.

Related Articles

Sources and Citations