Communication is as important in the workplace as it is in relationships. Comparisons between landing a job and dating aren’t lost on anyone who has looked for a mate or a position. A study by TINYpulse asked 400 U.S. employees what encouraged them to either stay in their jobs or to seek new employment. Whether employees were asked about their bosses or colleagues, the study found strong communication was key to compelling them to stay in their jobs.
Strong communication improved satisfaction with both managers and supervisors. For example, employers who provide transparency in the workplace were more likely to have satisfied employees. In addition, employees who whose employers and colleagues expressed appreciation were more likely to stay in their jobs. On the other hand, respondents who reported their colleagues provided low levels of recognition and appreciation were 11% less likely to want to stay in their jobs.
The Wall Street Journal featured a Gallup study of 7,200 workers that also found communicating well to be a key work skill. The National Associations of Colleges and Employers (NACE), concurs, as its published list of skills and qualities seek includes, “…Leaders who can work as part of a team and communicate effectively.” Clearly, communication skills are valuable and worth improving in order to get ahead in the workplace.
How to Improve Your Communication Skills at Work
Ultimately, communication skills make or break bosses and employees. If you communicate poorly, your other skills matter less, because people are less likely to know, or care, about them. How can you ensure your communication skills help you at work? Consider these tips.
Keep people in the loop. The Gallup study found workers whose managers hold regular meetings are three times more likely to be excited about and interested in their jobs. However, touching base with people at work isn’t just important for managers. Be a better team member by updating your colleagues, especially if you owe them information. Keep other stakeholders at work informed about your progress on projects, and they are more likely to view you favorably, no matter what your role.
Recognize a job well done. The TinyPulse study featured “recognition” as a key item that people appreciate at work. No matter your role in the office, from the top boss to the most entry-level worker, it stands you in good stead to say “thank you,” to be appreciative and to give credit where it is due in the workplace. On the other hand, you may have a target on your back if you regularly steal credit for someone else’s work or take people who help you for granted.
Be a good listener. Communication isn’t only about what you say; it’s a two-way street. Listening is a crucial piece of communicating well, and many people do not spend enough time on this important skill. Sarah Green Carmichael suggested several tips to improve listening skills for Harvard Business Review. For example, she suggests you try to recognize when your mind begins to wander during conversations. If you start mentally making your grocery list when someone is telling you something, identify ways to keep engaged. Carmichael suggests asking questions to help stay in tune with the conversation. If that isn’t practical, take notes on what the other person says (when appropriate). It may also help you to summarize conversations, which forces you to pay attention so you can reiterate the key points. Recognizing deficiencies in your listening skills is the first step toward improving them.
Be specific. Often, poor communication results from vague directions. For example, a supervisor may say, “Try to have this on my desk at 4:00.” The employee may interpret the instruction as a suggestion instead of a mandate. Strong communicators give instructions that don’t leave room for interpretation. Consider how you communicate directions to colleagues; be sure you don’t provide ambiguous instructions or deadlines.
Check your body language. If you’re trying to convey a friendly demeanor, but you keep your arms crossed in front of you and clench your teeth throughout the conversation, you’re probably not fooling anyone. Body language is an important component of communication. If you want your colleagues to consider you approachable, keep your body relaxed and open when you communicate. Lean in toward the person talking to you and make eye contact. If you nod and smile, it’s much more likely your colleague will believe you listened well.
Feeling like you’re speaking a different language than your employer? It might be a sign it’s time to check to see if there’s a more culturally compatible career option for you! Learn more at Elevated Careers and sign up for early access today.