Effective Workplace Communication Helps Align Perceptions with Reality

February 20, 2020 by  

Many of us grew up with the age-old adage of “don’t judge a book by its cover.” We were taught to see past the surface level and look for beauty beyond skin deep. However, our initial judgments often ignore pleasantries when evaluating first impressions. It is part of why dress codes are important in the corporate world. Effective, honest, clear workplace communication helps managers better understand employees and look beyond initial perceptions.
It takes less time to gauge others by how they look than by what they can contribute, but we all know looks can be deceiving. In the workplace, we need to remember that critical evaluation beyond appearances is more than just an issue of manners; it is vital to company success. We might judge others on perceptions but reality brings results at the end of the day.

The tug-of-war between perception and reality can lead to problems of employee efficiency. Robert C. Pozen, senior lecturer at Harvard Business School and author of “Extreme Productivity: Boost Your Results, Reduce Your Hours,” wrote for The New York Times about this “hours over results” problem. More efficient employees might find themselves wasting time just to log the same number of hours as their colleagues. What people notice drives us more than realistically evaluating what we have accomplished.
In his book, Pozen criticized hours-based productivity as a remnant of the industrial age that is ineffective in motivating modern professionals. Playing the game of watching the clock to judge when it is time to quit working conflicts with the specific demands of each task or project. Long meetings are an example of when more is actually less. After too long, attention spans begin to waiver and a meeting can dwindle into unproductivity. It is best to use agendas and assign individual tasks with specific deadlines.

Taking a more regimented approach to structuring meetings requires increased communication. Leaders have to plan ahead, communicate with employees before the meeting and follow-up with individuals after the meeting. Following a communication process will help keep perceptions in check with reality.
Sometimes efficiency comes from looking for big ideas, not the intricate details as when reading long articles and reports. Communicate with your employees the purpose behind what you send them to read. Employees should also ask questions about materials and determine their relevancy.

When you want to judge an employee’s workplace efficiency, look for objective measures of success. These can help managers move beyond their perceptions. Many managers prefer certain employees simply because they worked long hours, but had little substance to show for all of their time spent at the office. Workplace communication should occur on multiple levels, including knowing how to best manage each employee. Managers need to recognize potential and help employees to fulfill that potential through support, encouragement and even training.

Even if you choose to pursue results over hours, you still run the risk of perception overruling the reality of your efficiency as an employee. Communication drives employee performance. Managers and employees should work together to define efficiency by ranking tasks and taking objective measures to determine the particular priorities of their office. Efficiency is not the same as being quick. An efficient employee may still have to work overtime on some projects.
Assessments can help take some of the guesswork out of communicating with employees. The projects employees produce should be the real test of their effectiveness. Workplace communication takes more effort than relying on only our perceptions. We run the risk of destroying employee efficiency if we forget the lessons we learned as children to look beyond the surface.

Effective and successful managers are excellent communicators because they have learned what motivates their team members, what concerns them, what particular skills they have, areas where improvement could occur and are able to mentor employees or offer them appropriate training opportunities to enhance the skills they have and gain new ones. They have learned this because they are excellent active listeners, accountable for what they do and encourage employees to ask questions and contribute ideas that will make projects more efficient and everyone more productive. When they manage in this way their team will be better able to complete projects on time in an efficient and creative manner and all common goals can be achieved as well. In addition, modelling this sort of behaviour encourages the rest of the team to be honest and clear in their communication with each other and that makes teamwork easier.

Are You an Effective Communicator?

January 5, 2016 by  

Many of us feel we are good communicators because we have had years of practice….been doing it since we were born! However, the truth is that most of us are not very good at it and as a result we experience much conflict, confusion, resentment, disappointment, complaining, even anger.  So how can we avoid those outcomes and enjoy more win/win outcomes, more of what we want along with higher productivity, efficiency and creativity?

Here are some great tips that will help to improve your communication skills.

  1. Practice Active Listening, the most important communication skill. The more you listen, get clarification that the message you sent was the one received and that the person not only heard what you said, but also processed the content as you wished and arrived at the expected outcome for that exchange, the happier both of you will be! This attentive, focused listening will result in less miscommunication and therefore better relationships in all aspects of your life. Try it not only at work but also at home.
  2. Try to understand with whom you are speaking…..are they a controlling type of person who has little patience for the anecdotal version of anything because they are very organized, competent and decisive. Are they a supportive sort of person who requires clear, specific directions, encouragement, support and reassurances that they are doing things as expected. Are they an analytical type of person who needs more time to gather sufficient data in order to make a decision or design an appropriate system or process as requested. Finally, are they a promoter type person who relishes attention, has loads of ideas but has trouble organizing themselves to actually get things done. No matter who they are, if you can determine their personality type you can then adapt your communication style to suit their perception of situations which will make your message easier for them to receive and interpret as you wish.
  3. It is important for all of us to become accountable for our actions and deeds as well as when dealing with others. There is no point in walking around with a stomach ache if you feel someone has offended or disrespected you in some way, they are not a mind reader, so you must let them know how you feel, but do it in an honest and respectful manner. If that does not work, next try to come up with a strategy to overcome this issue so that you no longer are feeling badly. Finally if that does not work either, you may have to leave the situation in order to save yourself.
  4. If we are going to deal with situations we often need to be assertive. There is a fine line between being aggressive and assertive….be sure to state your opinion in an honest and respectful manner and be prepared to have to do this more than once in order to get what you desire. In the end, you may not get exactly what you want, as we cannot make people do things they do not wish to do, however you will feel better for having spoken up and tried to “fix” the situation.
  5. We must realize that men and women do not communicate in the same way, therefore, again, we must adjust our communication style to suit whichever gender we are conversing with. Women are fond of the anecdotal version of the day or issue, men usually are not, they prefer the key points and will ask for more detail if they want it. Women often talk about feelings and generally are concerned more about process and inclusion, rather than the direct outcome. Men are more focused on the outcome and results. That does not mean that women do not like results, they do, but may reach them in less direct manner.
  6. Dealing with difficult people is bound to occur at some point so realizing that often they are behaving as they do as a result of some previous experience, it is not truly “about you”. The behavior is their way of maintain control, deflecting blame from themselves or avoiding making decisions. In order to deal effectively we need to try strategies that do not take away their power or make them more defensive. In the end, we may not win, but we can try leverage their strengths to both their and our advantage but listening well and being assertive as necessary.

If you can employ some of the tips offered above I expect you will enjoy more win/win outcomes, less miscommunication and ultimately more creativity, productivity and happiness. When we are happy we also enhance our immune systems, so as an extra bonus you will also be healthier!

The Communication Handbook

July 4, 2013 by  

Clear communication is such an important skill in every aspect of life that I decided to write a book about the 5 Secrets to Effective Communication….how to build strong relationships at work, at home and at play.
The book offers strategies for 5 elements of communication. A description of Effective Communication sets the stage in chapter one.

Active Listening; the key communication skill is the second chapter.

Accountability; the personal empowerment through problem solving skill comprises chapter three.

Assertiveness; knowing what you want and asking for it in an honest and respectful manner is the subject of chapter four.

Gender Differences in Communication; how men and women communicate in very different ways, is explored in chapter five.

Personality Typing; knowing with whom we are having an exchange so that we can flex our communication style to be impactful is described in chapter six.

Finally, I offer a summary of what is covered and challenge the reader to begin employing these most valuable skills in their daily lives so that you can reduce the conflict in your life, increase the productivity, the efficiency and the creativity, as well as enhance the happiness factor in all that you do. If you do this you will enjoy much more success in everything all your experiences.

When the book is published, it will be made available on this site….if this interests you…keep an eye on Soft Skills for Success.