Communicating at Work: How to Make It Less Painful
Having a frustrating day at work is a universal experience. Regardless of your industry or position, we’ve all been there. So, why do some workdays hurt so much?
Without a doubt, some of the pain points that have been afflicting people lately are a result of working in a post-pandemic world. Supply chain problems and rising costs are the most persistent issues of the past few years. However, a lot of that is out of our control. What we can control is how we address such problems and come together to find solutions.
Communicating in the workplace, or anywhere for that matter, is challenging for many. For those who unexpectedly switched to telework at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, this struggle likely intensified. Nearly two years later, roughly six-in-ten U.S. workers who say their jobs can mainly be done from home (59%) are working from home all or most of the time, according to Pew Research Center. At this point, some companies have settled into the shift, and figured out how to effectively communicate and be productive outside of the office, but not all. If you’re having a hard time properly communicating at work, no matter the reason, here are our 10 top tips for making it less painful.
1. Establish the Rules of Engagement
Before you get started on a project, everyone involved should have a clear understanding of the expectations. Make sure that the whole team knows what they’re responsible for and that you all agree on a reasonable timeline to accomplish the necessary tasks. There must be a dated sign off approval process in place for each step in the project journey. If any individual is slowing down the project timeline, you will be able to follow up with them and refer to the original plan without any justified confusion or emotion. Project Managers should have authoritative figures on call for enforcing all accountability. If timeline issues with an individual persist after a few warning conversations, this authority can be called in for backup.
2. Act Quickly
With all the delays and lack of help across industries, it’s imperative that you begin discussing projects with everyone involved as soon as possible. This includes your internal team as well as any third parties that you’ll need to bring in. It’s better to have to go back to everyone with plan changes then to leave them in the dark for so long that they can’t help you fast enough once you get to them
3. Always Respond
If you receive an email or a voicemail, be sure to return that communication promptly. Obviously, we can’t be available to everyone 24/7, but it’s a good practice to at least shoot back a message acknowledging that you’re on top of it and will answer their questions when you can. Don’t turn a simple conversation into a trip to the dentist. Emailing should not feel like pulling teeth. Whether you have good news or bad news, you shouldn’t keep it to yourself. Even if you think they won’t want to hear what you have to say, it’s better to get it out of the way than to leave them in the dark.
4. Keep Unnecessary Cooks Out of the Kitchen
There are very few jobs where you work on projects entirely on your own. Most of us have internal teams, committees, and higher-ups to deal with. The more people on a project, the harder it can be to communicate efficiently. Each person needs to do their part and give their approval before the project can progress. Coming to an agreement is hard enough in a small group, so be sure that you’re only involving those who really need to be there.
5. Pay Attention to Preferences
We all communicate in different ways. When you’ve worked with someone for a little while, you’ll probably notice that they may ignore your emails but always pick up the phone, or vice versa. Take note of this and instead of fighting against their nature, reach out to them via the channel you’ve had the most success with so far. This may go against your own preferences, but at least you’ll get the job done in a timely fashion. If you’re unsure how someone would like to be contacted, consider generational preferences. For example, Millennials often think things like, “that meeting could have been an email,” because they find a lot of traditional workplace communication styles to be too time-consuming. This may be hard to hear, but the preferences of younger generations and the new technologies that cater to them could teach us all a little something about effective communication. There are plenty of digital platforms, such as Slack and Microsoft Teams, that enable professional instant messaging. These can be very helpful for enabling fast coworker communication.
6. Know What You Want
Before involving someone new in a project, be sure you’re confident in exactly how they can help you. This is particularly important when dealing with a third party outside of your company. While people around the office may have a general awareness of what you’re working on, assume a third party needs the complete rundown. If you don’t give them the whole picture as well as a fleshed-out description of what you need from them, you’ll create a potentially time-consuming back and forth as they will need to ask a lot of questions to fill in the gaps you’ve left them with.
7. Be Organized
The clearer something is in your own mind, the easier it will be for you to communicate about it with others. Developing processes that both help you stay on track and let you know when it’s time to involve someone else will do wonders for efficiency. Make sure you know who’s responsible for what and when it needs to be done by, and that all involved parties have this information too.
8. Track and Analyze
Unexpected things happen every day, so don’t hesitate to do progress checks with others on a regular basis. Also, don’t forget to follow through. A lot of people don’t properly analyze the results of their projects. Have you ever felt like you were talking to a wall, trying to explain why doing the same old thing over and over isn’t working? The metrics from your last project can provide the quantifiable proof you need to make your points.
9. Develop Rapport with Your People
Business relationships need to be nurtured just like any other kind of relationship. Get to know those who you work with on a regular basis. You’ll likely find some common ground with most people, and imagine this, you might even have some fun while communicating at work.
10. Bring Something New to the Conversation
Nothing is more painful than repetition. It’s a truly sad day when everyone that’s working on a project is bored out of their gourds. Also, it’s pretty much impossible for work done under those circumstances to be any good. Don’t be afraid to make creative suggestions. You’ll likely improve not only your own workday, but someone else’s too.
Try implementing these tips to avoid aggravating and lackluster interactions. Most people want their projects to be done well and in a timely manner, and they also probably want to enjoy what they spend a large chunk of their time doing. Other people can be the best or worst part of any job. Aim to be the person that makes your coworkers smile, not someone who makes them want to smash their head down on their keyboard and call it quits.
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