How to: Communicate effectively at work

Trouble communicating at work? Let’s talk…

Communicating effectively at work can sometimes feel like an impossible task – especially when you’re working with a number of teams, consisting of people with all different work styles and personalities. So how do you make sure you’re getting the right message across, at the right time, in the right place?

To help you improve your work-based interactions, here are our top tips on how to communicate effectively at work:


Use the right medium

OK, so you’re a total whizz when it comes to face-to-face communication.

You contribute, you work as a team, and you generally get the job done. The problem is, you can’t keep on top of your emails. And IMs? Well, they’re straight up ignored.

And although many things should be discussed in person, other topics are better suited for digital means – whether it’s email, text, or anything else. The bottom line? Every type of communication is important.

Being a master of one might get you some places, but it won’t get you everywhere.

So to ensure you’re covering all communicative bases, work out how you can utilise each medium for the best possible result. For example, you might find that for a simple question, a phone call or IM is appropriate, whereas ongoing collaborative projects may benefit from a continuous email chain, a shared document, or a group chat.

To help you decide which medium is best, consider the urgency level of the topic, the size of the issue/question/complaint, along with how many people are involved, and how formal it is.

Tl:dr: serious complaint: email. Question about tea: IM.

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Avoid a one-size-fits-all method

Everyone’s different. That’s no secret.

This means how they communicate (and what they want to communicate) is different too – whether it’s the content, method, tone, or style.

Sure, Dave from Accounts is going to be fully on board with numbers chat – jargon and all. Hey, he’ll probably actively encourage it. But Jill from Design? Forget it.

So for every message you send and every conversation you have – always consider your audience, and ask yourself if what you’re discussing is something they’d understand. After all, what might be second nature to some people could be gibberish to others.

You should also consider your relationship with them. Are you on a first-name basis? Are they senior to you? Have you ever communicated outside of small-talk-in-the-lift?

Then, adjust your tone accordingly – whether it’s by addressing them with (or without) a surname, or removing potentially inappropriate colloquialisms.


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Let your emotions take a back seat

The key to effective communication at work? Emotional intelligence.

It might seem difficult, but no matter how heated a discussion gets – you should 100% never, in zero circumstances, lose your cool. That means no yelling, no arguing, and most importantly, no storming out of the room.

Instead, try to keep work interactions as professional as possible, taking the time to think things over before you jump the gun (see also: react in a way you may regret).

Often, it’s simply a clash in personalities and work styles that causes conflict – meaning acknowledging what others want, listening, being diplomatic, and taking on constructive criticism is a great way to diffuse any potentially difficult interactions.

Remember: it’s nothing personal.

Also, something about not stirring the pot.

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Focus on what you say and how you say it 

When it comes to communication, your words aren’t the only way you’re sending a message.

For example, you might be saying ‘I can totally get that report to you Monday’, but your constant chatting and pen clicking may say otherwise.

Not only will this send mixed messages to your recipient (and/or give them false hope), not being open and honest with your communications could also end badly when you can’t live up to your claims.

Instead, always exhibit positive body language that show you’re engaged with the conversation, you’re being honest, and are interested in what the other person has to say – whether it’s by smiling, eye contact, uncrossed arms, or good posture.

You should also watch how others are presenting themselves. You might find that some body language cues indicate nerves, fear, or anything else.

Sometimes all it takes is a different communicative approach to make others feel at ease.

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Don’t beat around the bush

Let’s face it, it can be all too easy to get carried away with small talk.

A meeting starts, and suddenly the weather, the game last night, or what you had on toast that morning is dominating your conversation, when you’re meant to be talking about weekly reports.

Not only does this waste time, it also means nothing is actually getting done. The same goes for interactions that involve more mumbling, rambling, and ‘umming and ahhing’ than actual words.

So keep your work-based chats direct, concise, and to the point, ending in clear actions that each of you can take away. That way, you’ll get more out of it than your colleagues’ thoughts on luke-warm toast.

Spoiler: they are not fans.

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Honourable mentions: don’t work in silos, don’t use the word ‘silos’, actually listen, encourage feedback.



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