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How does effective communication promotes workplace wellbeing?

Posted on: July 12, 2022

Workplace Communication highlights how we can build interpersonal relationships through effective communication and why this is essential to workplace wellbeing. Well-supported by contemporary, reputable empirical studies, the book also comes with exercises and open-ended questions based on the subject matter. 

The author of the book - Joanna Crossman - was able to share snippets of her recent book. 

  1. What are the different types of workplace communication and key skills needed for effective communication?

I don’t think it is helpful to emphasise ‘types’ of workplace communication because how people communicate at work and interact in groups, is a dynamic phenomenon that encompasses so many aspects of communication simultaneously and holistically. Labelling different kinds of communication can be useful however for helping us to learn about communication in an organised way. 

Individuals communicate interpersonally, verbally and nonverbally. Gender, age, personality, spiritual beliefs, values and culture, for example, will also influence the way they relate to others, share ideas, influence and make decisions in the workplace. So, in the highly diverse workplace environments of today, understanding these differences and their implications for almost all employee interactions is a central line of enquiry in communication studies. Organisational communication essentially helps members to plan for, develop and inform from a macro and strategic perspective. It grapples with how language is used in policies and guidelines in ways consistent with the values, goals and principles organisations espouse. Online communication has also featured highly in organisational communication research, particularly as blended and flexible ways of working become more prevalent, largely accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Organisational communication is also deeply relevant to a range of contexts that characterise workplaces; negotiating, conflict management, collaborating and developing organisational members to realise their own potential and achieve organisational goals. All these forms of communication will need to be guided by ethical, respectful, and inclusive considerations that prioritise the well-being of employees.

Effective communication in the workplace can be learned and honed over time with practice and mindfulness.  There are so many useful techniques or skills that can be learned and fine-tuned over time so that they become second nature, improving communication with others dramatically, even in very tense communications.

Those skills that might be regarded as the core would include active listening, involving checking interpretations of what has been heard, showing empathy for others (which does not mean agreeing), showing respect and knowing how to provide constructive feedback. Developing and applying cultural intelligence and bringing that knowledge to intercultural communication is also essential in culturally diverse organisations. Framing and filtering, particularly in conflict situations is a communication skill that really can be a game-changer. A frame is essentially a lens that people bring to situations, by virtue of their own assumptions, beliefs and values, for example. How issues are framed and communicated will determine whether they are presented as positive or negative, of value or not, urgent or non-urgent. The skill of reframing or filtering is a conscious communication strategy to manipulate information so that it is not perceived as offensive in ways that can cause roadblocks in interpersonal communication. Finally, learning how to use I messages, as an assertive, constructive, non-threatening form of communication is a highly effective skill. Basically, it involves statements expressing and owning appropriate feelings, naming unwanted behaviour and the effect it has and stating the desired behaviour. I statements are a transparent and empowering communication skill because they are non-confrontational in the way you-statements can be, focusing upon, as they do, the values and behaviour of other parties in ways that can be perceived as judgmental and aggressive.

  1. What are the challenges to workplace communication especially in hybrid work environments? What strategies can we use to overcome roadblocks?

The global pandemic has intensified changes in how people operate at work – largely in working remotely. Hybrid ways of working may disrupt the sense of belonging that people feel with others at work – especially in diverse working environments. Being informed about what influences online communication, particularly in periods of rapid change and uncertainty, is a powerful tool in supporting people so that they can work collaboratively in achieving shared goals. How we communicate respect, inclusiveness, positivity, enthusiasm and finding meaning and purpose in the work we do, creates organisational cultures that succeed. There are no quick fixes to overcoming challenging environments but being mindful of our communication with others, practising and refining newly acquired techniques and applying advanced knowledge in the field to those challenges can have an extraordinary impact in overcoming what you refer to as ‘roadblocks’.

  1. What are the key takeaways from your book?

 Human beings are complex and diverse. Workplaces can present a range of demanding contexts including negotiation and conflict management that can be shaped productively, largely by appreciating how culture, identity and values have an effect on how well individuals and groups communicate and address issues in productive, ethical, inclusive and respectful ways. The book takes an interdisciplinary approach (drawing upon management, psychology, ethics, language and wellbeing literature, for example) to inform communication strategies. The text focuses upon bringing contemporary and empirical research in accessible ways to a broad range of practical situations, aided by relevant, and I hope stimulating activities.