Email wars, meeting stand-offs, delays caused by confusing directions… Miscommunication can significantly lower your company’s productivity and morale. But many people have difficulty organizing and explaining their ideas. They’re smart, skilled, and often sincere, but their poor communication skills make them ineffective managers.
Here are some tips for effective communication in the workplace. Sometimes, all it takes is that extra 5 minutes to craft that email or even 5 seconds to think about how a comment can be construed.
Use short and clear words and sentences.
Forget the corporate buzzwords and long words and phrases You’re more likely to confuse or bore your audience. Always choose the simpler and shorter word. Don’t say ‘Find herewith attached’ when you can simply say ‘Here is the file.’
It’s also better to use shorter sentences and paragraphs—or even bulleted lists. People are busy; they probably ignore or quickly scan emails, so it’s better to get your point across in as few words as possible. Rule of thumb: if you need more than 2 commas in a sentence, it’s too long. (Read more tips on writing effective business emails.)
Double-check your phrasing.
Is there even the smallest possibility of confusion? Will the person know what you want him to do? If you’re writing a particularly sensitive or important email or document, take a 5-minute break and then view it with fresh eyes before clicking ‘send.’
Avoid verbal agreements.
What if the person didn’t understand you, or forgot what you said? Document your conversation and your action plan in an email. It can serve as a gentle reminder, or a way of covering your ass if something goes wrong. (Bonus tip: organize and archive emails so you can find what you need in seconds.)
Whenever you give comments or suggestions, make sure that your feedback is clear and actionable. For example, don’t say ‘Your project is two weeks behind deadline.’ Say, ‘Give me a timeline of how you can finish this project by (date).’
You also need to be clear about who should be responsible for that action. Instead of complaining, ‘Someone’s got to talk to the design group about that lousy font.’ You can say, ‘Larry, please meet Andre about our font preferences.’
The beauty of this tip? You’re honest, but your criticism is constructive and objective. You also set very clear expectations. There’s nothing more demoralizing than a boss who gives vague instructions and then gets frustrated or disappointed by the work you give in.
Use Spell check and Dictionary
Bad grammar, confusing spelling or using the wrong word can make you look like an idiot and cause confusion: ‘what on earth does he mean?’ Good communication makes you look more professional, confident and credible.
Photo from cartoonstock.com