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Workplace Communication 101: Models and Tips for Improving Office Dynamics

In case you need some reminding, a typical scene that demonstrates workplace communication so normalized it made repeated references in Hollywood movies USED to look like this:

Two office girls huddled in a cubicle to hear the juiciest updates from a colleague seated in front of a computer monitor. Enter the supervisor five minutes into their conversation. Everyone quickly dispersed into the safety of their respective desks.

The supervisor then announced an emergency meeting in the conference room, after which he disappeared into his office and back to his desk. Everyone on the production floor wonders what the meeting will be about.

Fast forward to the post-pandemic workplace in 2023. Not only did COVID-19 disrupt the office dynamics, but it similarly affected how communications are initiated and maintained between and among the management and the employees. As the hybrid working setup has become more of a norm, workers struggle to keep up with what a new normal should look like in the workplace communication scheme.

Everyone from management down to the newest employees is still learning how to best leverage communication for more efficient workplace collaboration. After all, how communication is conducted in the office impacts team productivity, morale, and individual mental well-being.

We’ll discuss the basics of workplace communication, its theoretical models, and suggestions for improving the process for the employees’ best interests. By the end of this blog, you should be able to figure out an ideal way to get your message across when interacting with your colleagues to bring out the best performance that contributes to the company’s bottom line and the employee’s professional growth—and if you need more direct support, remember to reach out to me for hands-on consulting and training! 😉

Workplace Communication

Workplace communication refers to exchanging information and ideas between employees, managers, and other stakeholders in a workplace setting. It encompasses all forms of communication in a professional environment, including verbal, written, and nonverbal communication.

Examples of workplace communication include:

  1. Emails

  2. Memos

  3. Team meetings

  4. Presentations

  5. Phone calls/Texts

  6. Video conferences

  7. One-on-one conversations between employees and their supervisors

In an ideal world, effective workplace communication builds stronger relationships between colleagues, improves team dynamics, and creates a more positive and supportive work environment. As such, it requires individuals to be clear, concise, and empathetic in their communication style.

Beyond these basics, good office communication also involves active listening, asking questions, and being open to feedback to ensure that communication is received and understood. This is how morale is boosted, mental performance increased, and productivity enhanced.

A report by McKinsey & Co. revealed that organizations with effective communication could increase their productivity by 25%.

In contrast, poor workplace communication can lead to feelings of isolation, anxiety, and stress. It can also contribute to conflicts and misunderstandings, which can further negatively impact the mental health of everyone concerned. Hence, you must engage your colleagues in interactions that consider the message, its motives, and the feelings that might be involved. Some common examples of how an office conducts its communications include the following:

  1. Communicating with colleagues, supervisors, and subordinates to share information, give instructions, and provide feedback.

  2. Participating in meetings, presentations, and discussions to collaborate with others and make decisions.

  3. Writing emails, reports, and memos to convey information and ideas.

  4. Providing and receiving training, coaching, and mentoring to develop skills and knowledge.

  5. Using non-verbal communication, such as body language and facial expressions, to convey messages and emotions, especially during normal interactions outside of work.

Someone points at a sticky note posted on a whiteboard filled with other multi-colored notes.

Even instructions as small as those written on sticky notes define your communication style.


Models of Communication Typically Observed in the Workplace

There are theoretical models upon which communication works and is maintained based on the patterns in your interactions. This is especially true for workplace settings where social interactions are inevitable for collaborating and driving the company’s success.

Until the pandemic lockdown, most communication models were almost consistent across many organizations in the corporate industry. Yet the remote working setup disrupted the dynamics, ultimately creating diverse and often hybrid communication models that have the potential to be standardized.

If you’re wondering why your office dynamics appear the way it is, perhaps you should start looking into how communications are conducted between managers and employees. Below are some models that can be useful tools for identifying communication barriers, clarifying messages, and creating a more effective interaction strategy.

Shannon-Weaver Model

This model, developed by Claude Shannon and Warren Weaver, is a linear model that depicts communication as a one-way process that involves a sender, a message, and a receiver.

In the workplace, this model can be applied to various forms of communication, such as emails, memos, and presentations.

Transactional Model

This model views communication as a dynamic process involving a two-way information exchange between sender and receiver. It recognizes that both the sender and receiver are active participants in the communication process and that communication is affected by the context in which it occurs.

In the workplace, this model is useful for understanding the complex dynamics of interpersonal communication between employees, teams, and departments.

Interactive Model

This model views communication as a circular process that involves constant feedback and interaction between sender and receiver. It recognizes that both parties’ attitudes and values influence communication and perceptions and that communication is often incomplete or ambiguous.

In the workplace, this model is useful for understanding the role of nonverbal communication and social cues in face-to-face interactions, such as meetings and interviews.

In addition to the Shannon-Weaver Model, Transactional Model, and Interactive Model, other communication models can apply to the workplace environment. Here are a few examples:

Osgood-Schramm Model

This model emphasizes the importance of feedback in the communication process. It recognizes that communication is a two-way process where the receiver provides feedback to the sender, and the sender adjusts their message accordingly.

This model can facilitate effective feedback between managers and employees in the workplace.

Berlo’s Model of Communication

This model focuses on the factors that influence the effectiveness of communication. It identifies four key elements: the source of the message, the message itself, the channel of communication, and the receiver.

In the workplace, this model can be useful for analyzing communication problems and identifying ways to improve communication effectiveness.

Grunig’s Symmetrical Model

This model emphasizes the importance of creating a balanced communication process where the organization and the stakeholders have equal power and influence.

You can apply this model in workplace public relations and marketing communication strategies.

Fisher’s Narrative Paradigm

According to this model, people prefer storytelling. If you present something as a narrative, they tend to communicate and respond more effectively.

In the workplace, this model can be useful for creating engaging presentations and motivating employees through storytelling.

By using these and other communication models, employers can better understand how communication functions in the workplace and develop more effective communication strategies to improve employee engagement, motivation, and productivity.

Two sets of fingers pointing at the laptop monitor, with one arm hovering the trackpad.

Training an employee is the first base to introducing workplace communications.


Improving the Process for the Employees

Acknowledging effective communication in the workplace is key to ensuring employee productivity and retention. After all, who would want to stick around if the workplace reeks of unresolved office politics and a demoralizing atmosphere?

In fact, in another study by Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends, 79% of the companies acknowledge that employees’ sense of belonging in the workplace is tantamount to the company’s success. And to create such an environment that is both inclusive and conducive to professional growth, you need to establish better interactions in the workplace.

For many, this is often better said than done. Yet with consistent reviews and motivational stimuli, you can spark more meaningful, mutually beneficial, and worthwhile conversations with your employees and colleagues. Below are just some suggestions to improve the communication processes in the workplace.

Provide training.

Offer communication skills training to employees, covering topics such as active listening, effective feedback, conflict resolution, and assertiveness. Reach out to me directly to customize a workshop for your team!

Encourage open communication.

Create a culture that encourages employees to speak openly and honestly. You can do this by promoting transparency, acknowledging and addressing concerns, and fostering a safe and non-judgmental environment.

Use technology effectively.

Implement communication tools such as email, instant messaging, video conferencing, and project management software to facilitate communication and collaboration.

Define clear communication channels.

Establish clear communication channels and protocols for different types of communication, such as team meetings, one-on-one conversations, and project updates. By doing so, you can prevent misunderstandings and effectively communicate important information.

Provide regular feedback.

Encourage employees to provide regular feedback to each other and management. Ensure that they receive feedback in a constructive and supportive manner. A great way to do this may be through employee assessments.

Foster diversity and inclusion.

Promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace. This will encourage employees to share different perspectives and ideas.

A male in suit aggressively shouting at someone over the phone.

Discussions over the phone rarely go well, especially when you’re coming off as aggressive.


Conclusion

No matter how the pandemic has disrupted traditional office dynamics, there are still ways to improve interactions in the workplace. The news is it’s possible even in the new normal.

Improving patterns of communication and enhancing employee engagement are keys to achieving better productivity levels and higher morale. Investing in improved communication doesn’t only improve instruction, but also helps employees feel seen and heard for the qualities that they bring to the table, and that will always create improved performance.

Message me to book a consultation if you want to learn more about optimizing communications in your workplace.

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