Improving Communication in the Workplace (Effective Communication Starts at the Top)

The leaders of an organization set the tone for behavior in the workplace, including how to effectively communicate.

When a leader models the attitudes and behaviors that support effective communication among team members a powerful lesson can be taught about how to act in one-on-one conversations.

Respect is an attitude that is very strongly reflected in behavior. It is also the most important factor in effective communication.

Three hands holding cell phones, which can be used for improving communication in the workplace, displaying an application labeled "Branding."

Effective Communication Requires Respect — Respect Is Based on Trust

When we talk about the idea of vulnerability-based trust, we’re referring to an overarching sense of confidence in everyone’s motives, the belief that everyone on a team only has the best of intentions.

Under these conditions, team members value each other and allow themselves to be vulnerable and open with the rest of the team. That leads to unfiltered contributions from everyone with a stake in the work to be done.

A foundation of team trust leads to improvements in one-on-one communication by breaking down the barriers standing in the way of effective collaboration and dialogue.

Trust and respect come hand in hand as team members form reciprocal relationships based on their common sense of purpose. When those two principles are openly demonstrated, communication flows freely, healthy discussion and productive conflict around issues becomes a part of the workplace culture, and work leading to positive outcomes is kept on track through constructive peer-to-peer accountability.

Leaders Leading the Way: Modeling Effective Communication

We mentioned earlier the opportunities to model respect and effective communication. Great opportunities can be found in uncomfortable situations.

How leaders communicate during one-on-one conversations or supervision appointments can greatly influence and improve communication in the workplace.

Here are some suggestions any leader can use to demonstrate how any team member can communicate better with their coworkers.

(Learn more about how to build effective workplace relationships.)

Take the Time to Listen

Blocking out time to listen to what someone has to say lets a team member know that what they say is valuable.

Most of us have experienced the deep sense of pride, acceptance, and value when the boss has willingly set aside time to focus on what is important to us as team members and individuals. That experience should provide a valuable lesson for everyone on the team about the value of devoting a set period of time to someone for facilitating better communication.

The time constraints also help everyone focus on the topic and stay on task, which drastically eliminates wasted minutes of each other’s respective workdays.

Demonstrate That the Person Has Your Full and Undivided Attention

Everyone knows that supervisors, managers, and department heads, are extremely busy people. When the person in charge sets aside distractions and gives a team member their full and undivided attention, it displays respect for the team member as a person and communicates to them that their contributions matter.

In other words, if you want someone’s unfiltered best, you have to remove the filters, including cell phones, email, and other distractions that could present barriers to the one-on-one communication experience you’re trying to have. Multi-tasking in these situations should be done judiciously if it can’t be avoided outright.

Listen to Genuinely Understand the Message (Not for Ways to Drive Your Own Agenda)

A leader who has put other work on hold to sit down with a team member individually now needs to exercise the critical skill of listening.

Giving over the reigns in a session and letting the team member talk openly can be difficult. If the leader falls prey to the temptation to seize control of the meeting, time can expire with the leader still wondering what it was their team member wanted to communicate, all while leaving the team member feeling frustrated and unheard, which would be both disrespectful and a loss of precious time.

Utilize Your Body Language and Tone

Unless the leader intends on utilizing the situation for a stern talk or disciplinary conversation, they should make sure their body language and tone remain positive and inviting.

Nonverbal cues make up a great deal of effective communication. Some studies estimate communication is around 90% nonverbal. While the exact percentage is up for debate, there’s no question that how a person delivers their message is critical to it being successfully received and understood.

Be Prepared to Apologize

Admitting when you’re wrong is a powerful sign of respect that can reopen channels of communication after a bad encounter.

Everyone has bad days, whether they’re a team member or the person in charge. When an interaction doesn’t go well, it’s best to clear the situation up as soon as possible. It’s good practice to let go of an inferior position and to let the other person know their point of view is being respected.

(Here’s a pro-tip: These suggestions can also alleviate tense interactions with difficult coworkers.)

Better Interpersonal Understanding Leads to More Effective Communication

Understanding each other better leads to increased respect for the other person through the reduction or removal of misunderstanding. It clears away the interference we experience when the delivery gets in the way of the actual message or content another person is trying to communicate to us.

(Learn how two team members, Jessica and Connor, utilized the knowledge gained from Everything DiSC® about each others’ personality and communication styles to revitalize their interactions and take their collaboration to new levels.)

A Common Theme: Effective Communication Skills in the Workplace Center Around Respect

The guiding principle all of these ideas share is the importance of demonstrating respect for one’s colleague as a person and for his or her ideas.

Being intentional about displaying respect in our workplace interactions keeps communication flowing and work moving forward. Respect, trust, and healthy communication produce results.

Imagine the possible outcomes for your team or organization if everyone was utilizing these tools for improving communication in the workplace. How much more effective communication could occur, and how much potential could you unlock as the direct result of widespread use of these methods?

Leaders can make a conscious decision to utilize these tools to teach and facilitate better communication and make the workplace better for everyone involved.

How to Improve Employee Communication — Integris Can Help

Improving communication is necessary for more successful teamwork and collaboration. Tasks don’t get done, and, ultimately, results fail to be achieved if team members aren’t successfully working together as a unit.

Read more to find out how guidance and training with Integris can help you in your efforts at improving communication and building better workplace relationships through proven methods and tools like Everything DiSC.


Evans Kerrigan

Evans Kerrigan works tirelessly in both corporate and public sectors as a dynamic business consultant, presenter, and coach. With over 30 years of experience working with multi-national organizations such as Cisco, Sun, Blue Cross Blue Shield, BP, State of Arizona and King County Washington, Evans has been at the forefront of change management--building healthy organizations and creating great places to work. His contributions to these organizations have been credited with increasing employee engagement scores, dramatic reductions in costs and improvement in efficiencies and revenue, resulting in improved operational excellence.