Workplace CommunicationOpen communication is critical to the success of any relationship. While the saying is often associated with romance, it also applies perfectly to business.

The foundation of any successful venture rests on effective communication, as it fosters lasting relationships with employees, shareholder, and even competitors. In short, a poorly communicating business cannot succeed in a free market today.

Ironically, it’s easy to say but difficult to practice. When accounting for the variety of positions, people and goals present in work environments, good communication can feel frustratingly out of reach. Brian Gareau of Brian Gareau Inc. explained to attendees at CONEXPO-CON/AGG 2017 just how they can improve their business – and bottom line – with effective communication.

Clarity is Everything

An incredible amounts of barriers hinder good communication. The most notable is the implication that it’s not an issue worth devoting resources toward. Communication is simple, but it’s certainly not easy. Gareau says it is very easy to let small, social hazards block up a communication channel.

Common problems may include loud machinery that necessitates yelling, which could then be seen as evidence of anger or impatience. Personal relationships may end being strained, creating a fear of damaging a friendship with constructive criticism. If left unaddressed, minor annoyances are capable of escalating into significant communication hurdles, leading to increased tension, decreased productivity and wavering morale.

So how can understanding among employees of varied demographics and communication styles be improved? It all starts with clarity. Being as precise as possible about expectations can sometimes be all it takes to positively impact results.

Examples often include:

  • Requesting specific amounts or methods
  • Making a point of deadlines
  • Using clarifying descriptors

Setting standards and clarifying meaning with all regularly-used terms around the workplace is usually helpful; a break-down of jargon and slang can wildly improve communication abilities, especially for recently hired employees.

Consider Tone

Being flexible in communication style is the key to securing the best results. Gareau recommends when moving between multiple interactions in a single day, it might become necessary to change approach. Some individuals prefer personal, attentive interactions, while others prefer short and formal meetings. Determining a work environment’s outliers and self-correcting interaction with those people can improve problem-solving in no time, especially in groups.

There’s also the more technical aspects of how specific words can entirely transform the mood of a conversation or interaction. For example, when giving constructive criticism or potentially negative feedback, it’s important to observe the correct, stress-free moment. Suggestions should also involve using “I” statements to avoid expressing blame, employing active listening to make sure both parties feel heard, and thanking each other after the conversation concludes to express good faith. Without deliberate courtesy, a bit of negative feedback can easily escalate into all-out hostility.

The Unconscious Aspect

A large part of what truly hinders effective interactions ends up being silent signals: non-verbal cues given that signal failed communication or a lack of quality communication. Difficult to control, they require deliberate, calculated change to avoid disrupting office communication. A good example is eye contact: without it, employees can begin to feel unheard or disrespected, immediately affecting the efficiency of communication.

According to U.S. News, another, less-obvious example could be good posture, which can communicate confidence. Poor posture, on the other hands, communicates insecurity and can make other employees believe that the interaction was awkward or unwanted. Other examples include how close to stand next to other employees during conversations, nodding during conversations to communicate listening, not performing other tasks during conversations, among others.

Additionally, mode of communication can have a big effect on perceived intentions. Letting co-workers know of a sudden change in deadline via text message could unintentionally communicate an inappropriate apathy on the issue, breeding contention. It could be equally inappropriate, however, to also stop by a boss’s office to give him or her project updates. Regular interruptions could be condensed to a single weekly email quite easily.

While it’s easy to have a conversation and move on, it’s difficult to ensure that a message has been understood and received well. But armed with better communication techniques and habits, workplace interactions can go from dreaded and awkward to productive overnight.

This article's contents were adapted from a CONEXPO-CON/AGG Tech Talk, part of the show’s 75,000-square foot Tech Experience featuring future-looking innovations that shape manufacturing. For more information, visit

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