Business Perspectives

Communication can make or break the workplace

Since the 1990s, companies have become dependent on e-mail as their primary connection with clients and colleagues.

Even employees sitting a cubicle apart are e-mailing rather than talking to one another. Effective communication is critical to success in the workplace.

Here are some suggestions on how we can improve communication in the workplace:

Face-to face communication

We have become so dependent on our computers and iPhones that we have neglected, or even lost, the art of conversation – of actually talking to one another.

The problem with that is up to 70 percent of the meaning of what we say to one another comes not from the words that we use, but from our facial expressions, our body language. If we take smiles and gestures out of the picture by interacting via computer, the recipient of our messages can get the wrong idea, especially if the sender is not an articulate writer.

The way to overcome this is to pick up the phone and make a call once in a while, or walk down the hallway to talk to our colleagues or employees on a face-to-face basis.

Good listening skills

A common barrier to communication in the workplace involves poor listening skills.

What happens to cause that to happen? We may be distracted with concerns over other matters. We may be listening, but appear not to be because we’re not directly attending to the person who is talking to us.

We may be concerned about time, and attending to our watch or the clock on the wall rather than the person who is expressing a concern.

There are many reasons why we may not be a good listener. To correct that, we must not only listen to the person who is speaking to us by concentrating on their face and intentionally attending to what is being said, but also reflecting on what the person is saying by responding occasionally with attentive nods, or perhaps with, “Let me see if I understand what you are saying,” and repeating portions of what you heard.

Problem of perception

There has been one constant in workplace communication. That constant has been, and continues to be, that of “perception.”

The primary problem with perception is that we all look at the world differently. In order to not allow perception to be a barrier to communication in the workplace, remember that there are always many viewpoints and opinions among those persons with whom we work.

And, in listening to those varied viewpoints and opinions, new ideas and approaches to problem-solving may arise from them. As said by a wise writer, you never know when there’s a great idea on the horizon.


Everyone has had at least one micromanager in their career.

This person is like a shadow, lurking in the background making sure everyone is doing their job. They appear to feel as though they hired incompetents.

Hopefully, however, personnel were hired with the skills and intelligence to do their job well. So, there is no reason to hover over them.

When employees feel as though they have control of their responsibilities, they tend to feel a sense of purpose and are more invested in the process of doing an excellent job. If we provide employees the tools they need to get their job done, and then give them the freedom to do it, they will.

Managers need to remember that if they desire their most productive workforce.

Ray H. Hull is a professor of communication sciences and disorders at Wichita State University. Contact him at

Interested in writing for “Business Perspectives”? Contact Tom Shine at or 316-268-6268.