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COMMUNICATION IN THE

WORKPLACE

Misunderstandings and communication problems remain one of the most common sources of

workplace strife, and interpersonal difficulties are magnified when conflicting work styles

coexist in one setting. Generational differences (baby boomers vs. GenX-ers), personal

management styles, educational background, and cultural diversity are all potential sources

of office misunderstandings.

Working in a mobile environment entails using a variety of methods for communicating with

co-workers and clients. Each of these methods involves challenges for communication and

it's important to know how to cope with these challenges and prevent communication

confusion.

Consider the various methods of communication and the challenges involved with each

method.
Email/Instant Messaging:

With any written communication it's important to remember that information needs to be

presented clearly and concisely. In order to avoid confusion and even animosity, people must

be careful with what they write and how they write it.

Problem:

• Tone is hard to distinguish in written materials compared to talking face-to-

face. Careful choice of words and phrasing can be the difference between

working smoothly with co-workers and causing grief.

• Body language is not possible in written communication, so it may be unclear

what your intention may be if you are not clear. Using "Smiley's" and other cute

graphics don't cut it in the professional world and serve only to demonstrate

that the writer is perhaps not serious about the issue at hand.

• Writing a memo or replying to one may involve more in-depth writing and a

longer response than ordinary talking would require.

Solution:

Whenever you receive an email or memo and it seems you can't word a response properly in

writing, it's time to make a phone call or arrange an onsite visit.

Don't let unclear writing become a reason for remote work problems to occur.
Phone Calls:

Verbal communication is preferable over written communication, especially when lengthy or

complicated responses are required.

Problem:

• A negative issue with this method of communication is that there is no visual

interaction and miscommunication can result.

• Tone of voice can affect the exchange of information.

Solution:

• Any time you are involved in a phone call whether it is a call between two

people, or a conference call make sure that you have no distractions at either

end. Difficulty hearing what is said has been known to cause more problems

during phone calls than any other issue.

• Schedule your phone calls when you know you won't have background

distractions and for the people onsite, make sure there are no background

noises that will interfere with the call as well.


Video Conferences:

Gaining in popularity and usage, video conferencing allow people to communicate and avoid

many problems that occur in the above methods. Video conferences can provide a more

interactive means of communication and exchange of ideas.

Problem:

• Connection times are too slow

• Remote employee's computer doesn't support the video conference software

• Remote employee does not have the right tools (i.e. web cam or software) to

allow for two way communication.

• Participating in a web conference when only one party sees the other can be

very difficult and make it more difficult to ensure that the message is

presented well.

Solution:

Ensure that remote workers have access to software and mobile gear such as web cameras

will make video conferences successful for all parties.


In Person:

The best and most successful method of communication is of course face-to-face. While we

ideally dream that remote workers may not need to ever set foot in the corporate office,

it's just not realistic to expect that.

Problem:

It is not always possible for the remote worker to get to the main office due to distance or

other obstacles in place.

Solution:

Supervisors can arrange to visit the remote worker's home office or a location can be

chosen that is a mid-way point for both remote worker and Supervisor to meet.

For companies to avoid communication problems, it's important to set out in all Remote

Work Agreements the methods of communication that will be used the frequency of

communications and have alternatives in place if there seem to be problems with the chosen

methods.
While conflict is inevitable, it need not ruin your workday or cause unbearable stress. The

below conflict resolution tips may make your work environment a less stressful, more

productive place:

1. Be specific in formulating your complaints. "I'm never invited to meetings" is not as


effective as "I believe I would have been able to contribute some ideas at last

Thursday's marketing meeting."

2. Resist the temptation to involve yourself in conflicts that do not directly involve
you or your responsibilities. Even if someone has clearly been wronged, allow him or

her to resolve the situation as he/she chooses.

3. Try to depersonalize conflicts. Instead of a "me versus you" mentality, visualize an


"us versus the problem" scenario. This is not only a more professional attitude, but

it will also improve productivity and is in the best interests of the company.

4. Be open and listen to another's point of view and reflect back to the person as to
what you think you heard. This important clarification skill leads to less

misunderstanding, with the other person feeling heard and understood. Before

explaining your own position, try to paraphrase and condense what the other is

saying into one or two sentences. Start with, "So you're saying that..." and see how

much you really understand about your rival's position. You may find that you're on

the same wavelength but having problems communicating your ideas.

5. Don't always involve your superiors in conflict resolution. You'll quickly make the
impression that you are unable to resolve the smallest difficulties.

6. If an extended discussion is necessary, agree first on a time and place to talk.


Confronting a coworker who's with a client or working on a deadline is unfair and

unprofessional. Pick a time when you're both free to concentrate on the problem and

its resolution. Take it outside and away from the group of inquisitive coworkers if

they're not involved in the problem. Don't try to hold negotiations when the office

gossip can hear every word.


8. Limit your complaints to those directly involved in the workplace conflict. Character
assassination is unwarranted. Remember, you need to preserve a working relationship

rather than a personal one, and your opinion of a coworker's character is generally

irrelevant. "He missed last week's deadline" is OK; "he's a total idiot" is not.

9. Know when conflict isn't just conflict. If conflict arises due to sexual, racial, or
ethnic issues, or if someone behaves inappropriately, that's not conflict, it's

harassment. Take action and discuss the problem with your supervisor or human

resources department.

10. Consider a mediator if the problem gets out of control, or if the issue is too
emotional to resolve in a mutual discussion. At this step, your supervisor should be

involved. You can consider using a neutral third party mediator within your own

company (human resources if available) or hiring a professional counselor.

11. Take home point: It's not all about you - You may think it's a personal attack, but
maybe your co-worker is just having a bad day. Take time to think BEFORE you

speak in response to an insensitive remark. It may be that saying nothing is the best

response.