Relating well to people in the office is the key to avoiding work conflicts

HAVING effective communication skills is imperative to workplace success and organisational productivity. Being an effective communicator also enhances your personal and professional life.

So what are the elements of effective communication in the workplace?

Positive self-image
Self-assurance helps you be more assertive in making your points heard during discussions and key presentations.

Small talk is big talk
With the fast pace at work, very few people have time for small talk these days. Many of us just hit the “start” button on the computer when we come to work, check e-mail, attend meetings and generally get stuck in the daily grind of life. Small talk is necessary to start a good relationship and it also keeps a relationship going at work.

Making polite enquiries, as opposed to being intrusive, is a fine social skill and it shows graciousness and warmth. For example, “How was your Sunday?” is a good conversation starter after a long weekend break. It puts people at ease in your company. Small talk is not gossiping or putting down others behind their backs.

Small talk removes communication barriers as you become more likeable and visible. It also puts you in touch of “what is happening” in the organisation in a non-threatening way. Equip yourself well with a few great conversation starters from now on.

High touch in a high-tech environment
Are you guilty of hiding behind technology? In today’s era of electronic telecommunication and social media, far too many people are using e-mail and text and instant messaging as a substitute for face-to-face contact.

There are instances of flare-ups in companies where leaders attempted to handle sensitive or delicate matters regarding organisational change through e-mail instead of explaining the issues in person. The result was angry and frustrated employees who felt betrayed by their bosses.

Regular face-to-face contact builds rapport and trust. If you wish to bring the best out of your people, the most important thing you can do is to be accessible. Regularly meet your people and discuss with them the key concerns of their work and personal lives.

Body language
People love an appreciative audience. Be attentive. You can display attentive listening skills by these postures:
• Make regular eye contact with the person talking to you;
• Nod occasionally to acknowledge a strong point in the conversation;
• Stand with hands clasped in front of you — don’t cross your arms (it signals defensiveness or a lack of interest); and
• Avoid looking at your watch (it shows your impatience to end the conversation).

Clear speech

Strive to speak clearly, concisely and precisely. When discussing important matters, get to the point quickly. Long-winded narratives will bore your listeners and lose their attention.

Know your subject matter well — do homework to get your facts right before presenting your ideas. Aim for clarity: ask yourself questions to avoid making assumptions and present your thoughts and ideas coherently.

Know your audience
Conflicts in communication arise when people disagree or take offence with what has been said. It is important to be mindful of the impact your words might have on the receivers of your message.

Be assertive rather than obnoxious. Be sensitive to cultural norms in different work settings and also gender differences. In Asia, giving “face” to someone is important, especially in the workplace.

Follow-ups
To ensure that all facts are properly noted after a meeting or conversation, the best is to follow up in writing to avoid any confusion or miscommunication. Being diligent in small things like this can lead to great positive outcomes as it shows your dedication to detail and accuracy.

Show appreciation
Be sincere when doing so. Everyone needs some reaffirmation and praise from time to time. Your actions will contribute to stronger employee engagement in the workplace.

A simple thank-you note is a wise investment — it costs little but generates much satisfaction and happiness at work. No one wants to work for an unappreciative boss. Showing genuine care and concern builds goodwill that keeps your employees motivated even in tough times.

Article by Christine Sim, general manager (Search/Recruitment), Links Recruitment Singapore.