Here is a "guest post," written by Jonathan Trenton, that seems relevant to what I try to do here.
Communication problems can make the work environment uncomfortable and unproductive for everyone, and not just the individuals directly involved in the issue. The source of the problem could be everything from personal management styles and educational backgrounds to personality conflicts and cultural differences. And it only gets worse when past disagreements start influencing future decisions.
Open and clear communication in the workplace can build a more productive environment. It won’t always be easy to maintain the best levels of communication, but there are a few things you can do to resolve your situation as quickly and effectively as possible.
Choose Your Battles
For some issues you have to take a stand, but other times it will be more effective to compromise. The trick is to decide which is which. If at all possible, avoid battles that don’t specifically involve you or your responsibilities. You also need to be specific (even if it’s just with yourself) about why you are fighting this particular battle. Is it really to improve the work situation, or is this just a personal preference or annoyance?
Complaints often lead to more complaints, and soon any chance of clear communication is buried under a mound of misunderstandings and misinformation. Try and limit your complaints and resolve your conflicts one issue at a time, and you will have a much better chance of improving the atmosphere in the workplace.
Be Open and Be Clear
Speaking in generalities won’t even solve general problems. If you approach a coworker with a problem and inform him or her that “It bothers me that you always [insert problem here],” you will likely only inflame the situation. “Always” is a blanket statement that tends to exaggerate problems and put people on the defensive. If there is an issue that needs to be resolved, be specific about instances that need to be corrected and express yourself clearly.
Try to be open about the issue and listen to different points of view. This is likely one of the hardest things in the process, but open communication in the workplace depends on it. Make sure you are hearing what you think you are hearing. Consider a different perspective, because what you took as a hurtful remark may not have been meant as such. Maybe there is something else going on in a person’s life that caused them to speak out of turn. If you look behind the surface, you may discover something about the people you work with everyday.
One of the best ways to improve communication in the workplace is to act preemptively instead of reactively. Make the decision to be a communicator and be part of the team. Reach out to different departments in the company and build a network of trust and reliability, then everyone will feel more comfortable about expressing their opinions and they will be more likely to do so in a constructive way.
Look for opportunities to contribute to the conversation and be part of the team. Be interested in what others are saying, and try to add something interesting in return. It’s not always about you, and if that is all you focus on, others will soon grow tired of the same old conversation. Remember, you were hired because you know certain things, not because you know everything, so be willing to learn from others. Seeking knowledge from someone else can go a long way toward building a great working relationship.
Face to face contact is almost always better for workplace communication (and especially for conflict resolution) because it will be easier to read a person’s reactions and expressions and know what they really mean. When you are willing to work together like this and make real compromises, you will be able to increase the level of communication and productivity throughout the entire company.
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