There are so many things for new employees to learn. Where is the lunch room? How does this copier work? How can I remember everyone’s name? Do I really need to know how to fax? What is my login and password?
There’s plenty of information thrown at new employees during the orientation phase of a new gig. But for those just joining the workforce, there are also new language skills to develop. Specifically, how to communicate professionally and productively in the modern workplace.
For employees who have grown up instant messaging and texting, and who know think more in terms of Snapchats than memos, learning to communicate in the workplace can be a stumbling block to professional success.
But it doesn’t have to be. Here is how to communicate better at work in five different ways.
Not Speaking Is Sometimes More Important Than Speaking
You should be enthusiastic about your new job, sure, but that doesn’t mean that you should utter every word that enters your brain. In fact, many times, staying quiet or allowing others to speak is the best option.
For example, when you’ve asked a question or for advice, don’t interrupt in the middle of the answer. Or, when you don’t know the answer, you should always be okay with staying quiet or saying, “I don’t know.” Colleagues will appreciate your honesty. You may also want to curb your next rebuttal if you’ve dominated the conversation and others haven’t had a chance to weigh in.
This isn’t to say that you should be a shrinking wallflower, though. You’ve been hired to do a job and should represent your opinions and work honestly. Just be prudent when you do decide to contribute.
Stop Apologizing Before You Make Your Point
Many people (especially women, unfortunately) almost absentmindedly start conversations with “I’m sorry.” Employees use this as a filler phrase: a weight to soften bad news, or even a verbal tick to start any sentence.
This is so prevalent that popular comedian Amy Schumer produced an “I’m Sorry” skit that takes place at a “Females in Innovation” conference. Even though these women are over-the-top qualified, they can barely have a conversation because they spend the entire time apologizing for everything. It’s sad and hilarious at the same time.
So, next time someone misses a deadline for you, don’t say, “I’m sorry, but the deadline was Monday.” After all, the mistake is theirs — not yours. Just say: “The deadline was Monday, so we need to talk about when this work is going to be finished and how you can meet the deadline next time.”
Follow-Through Makes the Communication Effective
Many people who are trying to discern how to communicate better at work think the communications happen in meetings and on conference calls. But, oftentimes, what happens after those conversations is just as, if not more, important.
Let’s say you send an email to a coworker asking them to gather data for you and send it to your supervisor. You don’t get a confirmation email in return, but you assume the work is done because your coworker is typically reliable. Don’t cross this task off your to-do list until you’re certain it’s finished, since it will reflect poorly on both of you if it isn’t.
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Specify the Goals and Deliverables
Another mistake commonly made in the workplace is agreeing to vague tasks and responsibilities that leave both parties disappointed in the end. For example, your boss might task you with “growing our social media presence” and you think adding 200 Likes to the company Facebook page is what he had in mind.
But what he really meant was starting a Twitter account and an Instagram feed. Both of you will be frustrated by the wasted time and lack of results.
A common remedy to this is practicing S.M.A.R.T. goals. These are goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely. This helpful tool will almost guarantee there’s no miscommunication, thanks to the specificity of the goal and the timeline within which you should achieve it.
Remember Your Non-Verbal Ques Are Saying Something
Are you late to the meeting? Slouched over? Staring at your phone during the presentation? Studies show that a majority of employees think it’s inappropriate to read or write texts and emails during any meetings.
Why? Because you appear disinterested and disrespectful to those running the meeting. And chances are, if you’re late or busy emailing, you won’t be able to fully participate in the conversation. As young professionals, it can be difficult to learn these new behaviors, but they speak just as loudly as our words.
Entering the workforce is exciting, as your career possibilities are endless and success is yours for the taking. However, learning how to communicate better at work could be the difference maker in being perceived as professional, competent and engaged.