Effective communication in the working world

Effective communication in the working world

The following is by Cassie Shaum, LSW, a social service manager with Community Action Wayne/Medina:

All individuals bring their own style of communication to any type of interaction. Dependent on the venue, we adjust our tone, process, sentence structure and formality. As we explore effective communication in the workplace, our focus will be on formal and casual registers of language.

The workplace is often subject to a structured set of rules when communicating: I speak, you listen; you speak, and I listen. When communicating we stay on topic and focus on the plot of the narrative.

Casual work conversations are often described as “water cooler chat.” Casual language structures use a significantly lesser amount of words and may not always be turn-based or purposeful. It is an “unspoken rule” that at work we predominately operate in the formal register of language. Casual language should be reserved for specific situations and be kept at a minimum while at work.

Knowing this “unspoken rule” of language in a workplace may be something we unknowingly take for granted. Who taught you how to communicate at work or in formal occasions? Was it something your parents taught you or maybe something you learned in school?

Research on language experiences has illustrated we learn most of these principles as children. Language enrichment is based on the number of words we are exposed to, encouragement to communicate from our parents and forming an early working vocabulary. If, during our formative years, we are not exposed to valuable language experiences, we may have delayed language skills as adults.

Managers, do you have employees who only communicate in the casual register, employees you would like to promote but are unsure of because of the way they communicate?

Knowing language is learned and can be taught should encourage managers to create enriching training experiences for employees who may only casually communicate. If employees in the workplace need further coaching on formal language skills, create opportunities for learning.

By engaging employees in language skill building, you may find a promotable employee who only needed a few lessons in formal language structure.

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