Communication is essential for any healthy community, including the workplace. We have more ways to communicate than ever, but not every form of communication is effective, or even appropriate in every context. For example, your boss wouldn’t give you an annual performance appraisal via text message. At least we hope not. However, the best method of communication in other scenarios is not always as obvious.

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Today we’ll be discussing eight methods of communication that are accessible in many workplaces, and when it is best to use them.

1. Text

The workplace is evolving and we’ve seen many companies change their (ring) tone over the years concerning mobile devices. As our phones continue to become an extension of ourselves rather than a device we carry, the idea of asking us to surrender them for a time feels close to torture. Most employers eventually realized it is really in their best interest to allow them anyway, since the disruptive calls that once came in from kids and spouses have been replaced with non-intrusive text messages that can be quickly responded to with very little disruption of work time. This is even recommended.

If your company has some form of instant messaging built into its network, it’s probably best to communicate with co-workers about work-related things over the official system in place rather than texting. It’ll save you that defensive, “I swear it was work-related” response when your boss walks by and sees you typing away on your phone.

Whether to text or not to text in all other cases is best determined by observing your company culture and responding in kind (when in Rome…). If you recently started working at a new company, here are some common texting taboos to avoid until you have a good understanding of how your new culture feels about them: time off requests (including “calling” out sick), project delays, and anything that requires more than a quick response in return. If your supervisor has initiated a text conversation in the past, you can safely assume that he or she is open to at least some texting.

Finally, if you’re a manager, never terminate an employee via text. It’s not only unprofessional, but it will clearly display your own lack of fortitude on your soon-to-be former employee’s screen. This will almost guarantee your company an instant one-star Glass Door review too.

2. Phone

If you are dealing with customers or vendors—as old fashioned as it may seem—the desk phone (or softphone) should be your go to gadget, and email should document and supplement these conversations. If a client or customer would prefer to correspond via text, they will probably tell you. But wait until they request it.

The classic phone call is also a great place to start if you need a last minute, unscheduled day off, or have a request that may require many subsequent clarifying questions and/or responses—or when you just need information NOW.

Don’t abuse this amazing voice communication tool. Nobody wants to be disrupted by a phone call every three minutes, no matter how urgent the matters seem at the time.

3. Email

In most companies this is still the most common communication tool, probably because it can be used for both formal and casual correspondence and is almost as fast as the less formal instant messaging.

Email is the paper trail of this millennium. Anything of significant importance in need of documentation should still be sent via email, especially if you will need proof of your timely replies in the future. Email also allows you to cc: or bcc: cya responses that you may need access to in the future to a personal email address. You will still be able to retrieve these important documents long after after your company access to all other systems has been revoked.

Like every form of inter-office communication, email has its caveats too. Email is one of the least secure ways to share logins, passwords and other sensitive personal information.

4. Instant Messaging

Many companies have built-in instant messaging software, or they may use popular services such as Google Hangouts or Slack. These services work well for getting fast answers to simple questions, quickly sharing files and URL’s, and collaboration—especially for team members working in various locations.

Slack, mentioned above, is office messaging on steroids. The SLACK acronym stands for “Searchable Log of All Conversation and Knowledge.” As the name suggests, you can easily search through previous discussions to avoid asking the same person the same question more than once. Who would’ve thought you could save time and increase productivity by SLACKing?

5. Face-to-Face

Despite the fact that its use is presently on the decline, face-to-face communication will never become obsolete. According to a UCLA study:

the more time that young people spent away from their smart devices, and spent time with others in person, the better skilled they were at reading facial expressions and perceiving emotions. Those who retain this skill are certain to have better success in any workplace. We predict its resurgence.

These 4 things almost always go better—and are more rewarding—when done face to face

  • Salary negotiations
  • Performance appraisals
  • Compliments
  • Apologies

Of course some geographical working arrangements preclude the possibility of enjoying face to face conversation in the same room. Although not a perfect substitute, Facetime, Skype, and other forms of video conferencing can serve as the next best thing.

6. Body Language

Use body language as a way to send and receive communication with co-workers whom you already know. A person’s body language is much easier to understand after having established plenty of face to face, verbal communication with them, and you have already learned how they physically respond to a multitude of stimuli.

Keep in mind that body language is cultural, familial, and individual.

There are some gestures that are nearly universal, and some may even seem instinctive—but trying to interpret the body language of a co-worker without having already communicated with them in other ways will lead to all sorts of misinterpretations. Psychology today has debunked many common body language myths that many people still believe to be factual today.

7. Workplace Happiness Apps

Happster, a workplace happiness app, provides many of the same advantages of other workplace communication methods—with many additional enhancements.

If you have ever given your supervisor a great idea on her way to the office, only to have her forget all about it by the time she sat down—you are not alone. Even pure face to face communication as it was used in this scenario has its disadvantages. If this has happened to you, keep in mind that it wasn’t your fault—or even your supervisor’s fault. These things simply happen due to the limitations of human memory, and the busyness of contemporary work culture.

Happster allows you to post suggestions and feedback for your supervisor to see—as well as everyone in your department. Your coworkers can upvote your idea so that your supervisor can see just how important this suggestion is to the rest of the team. Your supervisor can log into Happster and view everyone’s suggestions, so that she can know what’s most important to everyone. She will be more likely to take action on them, and she will know which suggestions to prioritize. And this will lead to… more workplace happiness!

Happster also allows you to post feedback anonymously just in case you don’t want all of the glory, pomp and circumstances that would come with one of your amazing ideas getting implemented.

You can also recognize your workplace heroes for your entire company to see. All that positivity! Can you think of a better way to start your workday?

8. Sticky Notes

This is as close to that old-school, written communication that you’re going to find in most contemporary workplaces. Use these as a quick note of appreciation, or to remind someone of an important task. Place them right on the phone, computer monitor or keyboard.
Use sticky notes sparingly. A single sticky note stands out and is appreciated, but 30 sticky notes are just a sticky mess.


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By | February 9th, 2017|Company Culture, Employee Engagement|

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