13 tips for managers to upgrade their communication at work

Written by: Alison Robins | Illustrated by: Aless Mc
Published on July 16, 2020 | Reading time: 10m

Proper communication at work plays an essential role in each and every responsibility you have as a manager. From building relationships, to conflict management, to explaining clear objectives, to delivering tough feedback. Communication is king. When you add remote work into the mix, effective communication is even more fundamental to keeping employees engaged and aligned.

To help you improve the quality and frequency of communication with and on your team, we put together 13 tips to become a better communicator and foster a more communication-friendly environment.

1. Practice authentic communication

Workplace communications can often feel rehearsed, which makes them less effective and meaningful. To avoid this, be yourself and ensure that what you are saying comes from a place of authenticity.

As a manager, this mindset of humility and vulnerability is key to building a level of comfort for others on the team to communicate their own perspectives. When you can communicate with sincerity by, say, admitting to mistakes or not having all the answers, you create a space that is emotionally safe for employees to also be authentic. And once that authenticity seed is planted, everything from building solid relationships to having difficult conversations becomes just a little bit easier. 

If you want your employees to be real with you, lead by example.

2. Create a communication-friendly culture

To make sure your workplace day-to-day is communication-friendly, set your team up with the right set of online communication tools. Apps like Slack and Zoom are great for staying connected with remote employees and make communication accessible and collaborative even from afar.

To render a culture communication-friendly all around, speaking up about feelings, sharing ideas, and broaching difficult topics should never be taboo. In fact, it should be promoted as a value. The most successful teams feel safe to communicate about everything, especially the tough stuff.

Tip: At Officevibe, we have a set of team norms that act as our guiding principles for how to behave and treat one another. Once such value highlights communication: “Call out the elephant in the room”. This helps team members feel comfortable and responsible to not let important issues slip through the cracks.

3. Keep workplace communication constant

As a manager, it’s your role to establish a constant flow of communication on your team. Instead of relying on annual reviews to discuss performance and goals with your employees, find time for monthly one-on-ones to keep up to date with your employees’ workload, how they’re feeling, and what they might need from you to best contribute to the team.These regular communication touch points will help build a personal relationship with each employee and keep employees engaged when working remote. You’d be surprised how much your employees have to say that they might not bring up if you didn’t initiate these slotted talking times.

Get through difficult workplace conversations by building your emotional intelligence.

Image of the emotional intelligence guide

4. Hold weekly team meetings

In addition to monthly one-on-one meetings, schedule the same sort of initiative but for the whole team in an open forum. During eventful times such as the current pandemic, having more frequent meetings will be helpful to re-communicate goals, objectives, and any shift in strategies. They’re also a great time for your employees to ask questions and to ensure that everyone understands what’s needed from them, and what’s coming up.

Tip: People might feel nervous to ask questions in groups, so it’s important for managers to normalize it. You can do this by demonstrating your own curiosity. Ask your team questions that prompt reflection and leave space for them to answer. Instead of “is there anything unclear about the new strategic direction?” ask “what part of the new direction is lacking in clarity” or “what part excites you?’

5. Offer a platform for anonymous feedback

The option for anonymous feedback is crucial for effective workplace communication. Sometimes, employees won’t share feedback with their managers because they are hesitant about making a complaint, or divulging their feelings openly. While we’re all for transparency and vulnerability, the option for anonymity facilitates the process of sharing more difficult sentiments, which are key insights for managers.

❤️ Officevibe helps managers improve team communication and build a culture of continuous feedback

We take communication seriously and put continuous effort into ensuring that our product helps managers and teams master effective, two-way communication. Here’s how:

  1. Our feedback tool allows employees to share their thoughts anonymously, and lets managers respond to the feedback directly in the platform. Opening up a dialogue about issues in real time helps start important conversations before problems become too big.
  2. Answering feedback isn’t always easy. Our latest Feedback Guidance Feature guides managers in responding to all sorts of feedback. We’ll always be there to guide you, but you’ll improve over time and eventually, answering even the toughest feedback will become natural to you.
  3. We believe in meaningful, effective, and collaborative communication, always. Our 1-on-1 tool lets managers and employees set talking points in a collaborative agenda, and even helps managers kick-start discussions with dozens of Conversation Starters that are proven to promote solution-finding and openness.

6. Ask for employee feedback

Communication should never be solely top-down or one way. Always give your employees the chance to give you feedback and offer their thoughts. 

For example, ask your employees to communicate their feedback on your performance as a manager, or ask them to share their input on the upcoming strategy you presented. The idea is to keep lines of communication open and rid of hierarchical barriers. Everyone has something to learn, even managers.

 💥We created a Toolbox for managers with frameworks, guides, templates and checklists to get them through their most common management challenges. Check out our Communication and Feedback Tools.

Image of communication at work

7. Communicate face-to-face 

Using tools like Slack and email are often the most efficient, however, it’s important to remember that face-to-face communication has a great amount of value in terms of sincerity and authenticity.

Part of effective communication is human interaction, so try speaking instead of typing as often as possible without disrupting the flow of work, especially when it comes to giving feedback. It will resonate more.

Tip: For the times you can’t be face-to-face, try having video chats rather than just phone calls. They ensure we give meetings 100% of our attention and help strengthen workplace communication when you and your employees aren’t physically in the office.

8. Master your body language

Non-verbal communication is important for managers to consider. Your body language has a huge impact on the people around you, and over 60% of our communication goes beyond the words we use.

Communicate with a positive physical presence and ensure that your body language is open and approachable. And again, if you’re working remotely, your body language on video calls is just as important. Here are a few things to keep in mind to maintain positive body language:

  • Smile — it’s comforting!
  • Keep your arms uncrossed to demonstrate openness 
  • Maintain an upright posture to show your engagement 
  • Maintain eye contact — it’s a sign that you’re listening 
  • Turn off device notifications to minimize distraction 

9. Know when less is more

In a perfect world, people are able to power down after work hours and stop checking their emails. But the truth is, many of us are so connected to our jobs and our devices that not checking seems unnatural. The line between a healthy work-life balance is blurred even further when working from home when we don’t have that physical separation between the office and our living room. After work hours, however, keep the number of emails you send to employees to a minimum. While your communication is likely important, it can also most probably wait until the following day.

According to data we collected during the transition to remote work, 32% of employees don’t feel they have a proper balance between work life and personal life. As a manager, it’s your role to lead by example and help them draw clear boundaries.

10. Take time to listen

One of the most essential and meaningful elements of communication is listening. The famous adage reminds us that we have two ears and only one mouth for a reason. Listening to employees allows them to have more space to give honest and transparent feedback, and it’s a clear indicator that you care.

Here are 3 quick tricks to help you be a better listener:

  1. Be comfortable with silence: don’t be afraid to not speak. Gaps give people time to reflect and think about what else they have in mind.
  2. Be present: it may seem obvious, but listening is also completely focusing on the interaction you have with the person. Put your phone away, close your laptop, and dedicate your attention to the conversation.
  3. Say it back: try to repeat what the other person said. They will know you were truly listening, and it ensures that you’re on the same page so you can move forward together.

Get through difficult workplace conversations by building your emotional intelligence.

Image of the emotional intelligence guide

11. Personalize your communications

Understanding your employees’ individual communication style might take time, but the best leaders know their audience. Being mindful of the way you communicate to fit the personality and needs of the person you’re talking to will go a long way in building solid relationships with each member of your team. Consider this:

Employee A might prefer to communicate in a private space and appreciate specific examples when receiving feedback.

Employee B might like to walk and talk for difficult conversations because it requires less direct eye contact, rendering the conversation less formal and intimidating. 

Employee C might have a hard time communicating altogether, and this would be a good cue to work on communication techniques as part of their development. Taking the time to learn all this will not go in vain.

One way to discover each employee’s communication preference is to ask:

  • What is the best way to give you feedback? 
  • What is most important to you when it comes to communication in the workplace? 
  • What are the most difficult elements of communication for you?

12. Set aside time for non-work related discussion 

Employees are more than just workers. They’re people, with big life plans, skills, hobbies and stories. Tapping into the whole person and communicating on topics beyond work is what develops positive relationships and team dynamics, which are undoubtedly the foundation of good team performance.

Try this activity: Ask everyone to share something completely unexpected about themselves with the rest of the team. Write it down on a piece of paper, throw it into a hat, and work together to guess who it belongs to. You’ll be surprised what you learn about each other, and how bonds are created in these moments.

13. Prioritize workplace communication training 

To communicate more effectively with your employees, continually refresh your own skills and approaches to avoid picking up any bad habits. 

At Officevibe, we’re going through Conscious Communication (also known as Non-Violent Communication) training. Initially, only managers went through this training program, but now all 300+ employees are taking part in this two-day workshop. The goal is to help everybody become more aware of how we communicate and to understand the effects of our word choices. With the right techniques, it becomes easier to approach difficult conversations.

Ultimately, effective communication leads to engaged employees. It helps them understand what’s going on in the company and what’s expected of them. It helps build relationships, have tough talks, and successfully tackle problems as they come. It removes the ambiguity that can be unnecessarily stressful — and that ambiguity is only compounded when working remotely. Communication is the thread that ties through all successful teams.