Business Perspectives

Ray Hull: The impact of communication in the workplace

I view communication in any work environment as the critical element that can influence its success or failure.

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

Good Listening Skills

A common barrier to communication in the workplace involves poor listening skills. What causes 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. Good listeners do the following:

▪ They maintain good eye contact, and no side glances. That’s a dead giveaway that they are not really interested in what the person is saying;

▪ They show the person who is sharing their thoughts that they are listening carefully to what is being said;

▪ They offer verbal expressions of feeling, for example, “That must have made you very angry.”

The Atmosphere of Communication

Another aspect of communication that is critical to success in any work environment involves the atmosphere of communication that goes beyond talking.

Interpersonal communication includes the creation of an atmosphere of communication that results in a positive environment for productivity and creativity. The better we are in creating that environment, the more successful we and our organization will become.

So, what does it involve?

The atmosphere of communication in a work environment not only involves what we say but what we do in our communicative interactions with others. That may involve our body language, our gestures, our manner of eye contact and the manner in which we listen to those who communicate with us. Remember, good listeners become good leaders.

I tell my audiences, “Whether we want to or not, we live in a world of people who do not communicate well. But, we also live in a world of people who do not possess the knowledge or skill to be good communicators. It is simply that many people, including some bosses, may possess communication habits that are less than desirable.”

The reasons?

1. They use poor body language. Hands in pockets, shuffling feet, shoulders hunched forward and poor eye contact are all indicators that the listener is really not interested in what is being said.

2. They may use inappropriate grooming. Extreme clothing or makeup, or clothing that is designed for evening wear rather than work, extreme hair styles, visible body piercings or visible tattoos can distract from positive interactive communication.

3. They interrupt the conversation, interjecting their opinion before their associate has finished speaking.

4. They do not return messages. Not responding to telephone or email messages in a reasonable amount of time reveals an attitude of not caring.

These and many more causes of poor communication in a work environment can result in employees who will cease communicating with those who are responsible for them. And, effective communication is what keeps a business or any other entity functioning creatively and successfully.

Ray H. Hull is a professor of communication sciences and disorders at Wichita State University. His new book with Jim Stovall, “The Art of Learning and Self-Development: Your Competitive Edge,” will be released later this month.

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