November 16, 2022

Understanding Communication Styles in the Workplace

Understanding Communication Styles in the Workplace featured image

Whether you work remotely or you’re employed to work in person, communication is a part of any workplace. There are many communication styles employees and employers use throughout the workday; which affect productivity and efficiency — even if you don’t notice it. Communication isn’t limited to just verbal speech; it also includes written communication and non-verbal communication like body language, eye contact and facial expressions. 

Understanding the different messaging styles and how employees or coworkers use them can help your business run more smoothly, increase interpersonal skills and boost office relationships. Continue reading to learn more about expanding effective communication in your workplace. 

The Importance of Effective Communication

Workplace communication can be defined as the exchange of information among employees in a work environment, including face-to-face conversations, emails, chat messages, video and phone calls and any other communication methods used to pass messages in a business environment. Non-verbal communication is also included in this broad description and can either help or hinder speech from being successful. 

To truly understand communication, it’s vital to get a grasp on why effective verbal and non-verbal speech is important in the workplace. Good communication serves businesses by enhancing the quality of relationships between coworkers, enabling projects or services to be completed or accomplished in a timely manner and building trust for employees and employers alike. 

Let’s take a closer look at these factors:

Enhances Relationships

When done correctly, communication is a helpful tool, but when done poorly, it can be extremely harmful. Company culture is built on relationships and whether employees feel connected to the company as a whole. This means effective speech can boost people’s morale, engagement, productivity and satisfaction, all through strong relationships with other team members. 

Enables Project Completion

When employees communicate efficiently, more projects or services can be completed. According to Expert Market, 86% of employees and executives believe the lack of effective collaboration and communication are the main causes of workplace failures. Also, 28% of the same group of people said poor communication is the reason for work not being delivered on time.

Builds Trust 

Clear and open communication in the workplace can be a source of trust for employees. If employers are constantly updating and giving clear instructions to people, or if coworkers are sharing needed information on time, then everyone will be on the same page. Ineffective communication can be frustrating for employees, which may create a breeding ground for distrust and confusion.

The easiest way to incorporate effective communication into the workplace is to understand and recognize the available staples of messaging. Learn how to enhance your relationships, complete projects on time and build trust in your organizations by sharing information in healthy ways. 

What are the Different Workplace Communication Styles?

To better understand how the people you work with communicate, you must know what signs of verbal and non-verbal speech to look for. Every person typically fits into one of four categories when it comes to communication styles in the workplace. Those categories include:

1. Passive Communication Style

2. Aggressive Communication Style 

3. Passive-Aggressive Communication Style

4. Assertive Communication Style 

Although there may be negative connotations with each of these styles, none of them are inherently bad. Each workplace communication style simply needs to be better recognized and understood. 

Passive Communication Style

Passive communication is defined as a style of speech in which an individual has developed a pattern of avoidance when it comes to sharing or expressing an opinion or feeling, protecting their rights and identifying and meeting their specific needs. 

When someone is a passive communicator, they are generally very quiet or shy. This person will likely avoid confrontation or debates and wouldn’t take a firm stand on a topic or opinion. If you have a colleague that passively communicates, you may notice they refuse to share their concerns, feelings or thoughts, making it difficult to understand them and leading to potential misunderstanding. 

Passive communication can look like this:

  • Deferring to others to make decisions
  • Apologizing often
  • Quiet volume and tone of voice
  • Fidgeting or moving around

Aggressive Communication Style

Aggressive communication is a style of sharing information in which someone often expresses their feelings and opinions and advocates for their needs in a way that may violate or step on the rights of others. 

An aggressive communicator may be arrogant, condescending, sarcastic and opportunistic, which affects relationships and interpersonal abilities. If you have a coworker that aggressively communicates, they may seem bossy, mean-spirited, discontent and rude. 

Aggressive communicators have been attributed to:

  • Speaking harshly
  • Loud tone and voice
  • Frequent interrupting
  • Placing blame on others
  • Mocking behavior

Passive-Aggressive Communication Style

Passive-aggressive communication is defined as the style in which an individual appears passive on the surface but is actually acting out their feelings subtly or indirectly. When someone is passive-aggressively communicating, they may use lots of body language and display facial expressions that don’t accurately reflect how they’re feeling. This form of communication can be seen as deceptive and may lead to confusion between those who are speaking to this individual. 

This style of communication can look like this:

  • Using sarcasm
  • Showing denial
  • Staying quiet when being asked questions 
  • Displaying backhanded or manipulative compliments

Assertive Communication Style

This final form of communication is considered the most healthy and effective style of speech because it is a style where the individual expresses their opinion or point of view in a way that is clear, direct and respectful. If you have a coworker who is an assertive communicator, you’ve probably witnessed them share their wants, expectations, thoughts and emotions while practicing active listening and considering other people’s needs. 

Although it’s easier to communicate with people who are assertive communicators, it’s also vital you pay attention to what makes their speaking style so effective. Some key factors in assertive communication include:

  • Appropriate honesty
  • Empathy toward others’ emotions
  • Active listening
  • Good eye contact
  • Speaking in a clear and even-toned voice

Great communication in the workplace can be hard to come by. When you do discover a group of people who actively listen and share their ideas and thoughts respectfully and politely, this style of communication must be celebrated. Always speak up and point out when someone actively uses assertive communication styles.

For example, if a coworker shared helpful feedback in a group discussion, used eye contact during a presentation or responded to another team member in a kind tone, then make sure they know this method of communication was beneficial to the team. That way, the assertive communicator will feel valued for putting in extra effort toward speaking and listening, and everyone else in the office will potentially adopt this form of communication. 

As important as it is to point out effective communication, it’s also vital to flag harmful communication methods that make your team’s messaging better overall. 

Identifying Ineffective Communication

Ineffective communication can result in an unpredictable work environment, low morale, missed project deadlines and internal conflict. According to Indeed, if you notice a lack of production, conversation or idea sharing, your company might be struggling with communication problems. As previously mentioned, there are no completely negative messaging types, but there are more effective communication styles than others. If your team members are not using assertive communication skills, then it’s time to discover what factors are causing the disruption. 

Here are some examples of ineffective communication:

Lack of Enthusiasm

The person speaking should show their excitement about either the work being presented or the ideas shared. If your workforce isn’t involved with conversations or shows no interest in what is said, try to incorporate more enthusiasm into your communication. 

Disrespectful Speech

There should be no reason for coworkers to be intentionally or blatantly rude to one another in conversations either work-related or personal. Disrespectful communication takes on many forms, including constantly interrupting the speaker, saying hurtful things, being sarcastic to anyone involved or refusing to share an opinion — either because of passive or passive-aggressive communication tendencies. To avoid unkind speech, your workplace must require the practice of assertive speech skills throughout the office. 

Unclear Information or Directions

A business, no matter what size or style, has to involve clear and concise communication between employees and employers alike. Leaders in your organization must give straightforward guidelines and feedback when it comes to all correspondence, and colleagues should always strive to share clear directions and information when working together. This makes sure everyone on the team is on the same page and understands what is expected of them. 

Your organization may experience inefficient communication throughout the workday, but it can improve. Implement communication best practices as a priority in your organization to potentially see better results. 

Tips for Improving Communication

To introduce better communication styles into your business and steer clear of passive, aggressive and passive-aggressive messaging, put the following communication tips to good use:

Make Expectations Clear

It’s the leaders’ job in any organization to lay down specific and measurable guidelines for employees. These expectations should include how to speak to other employees, give constructive feedback, share important opinions and treat others with respect. It may also be beneficial to meet with employees regularly to make sure these policies are being followed. 

Ensure All Documents and Resources are Available to Employees

One part of communication is also internal availability between project-specific resources or data. To ensure everyone has the tools for success, all employees should have access to the correct documents and applications. When information is freely available, it not only allows people to do their jobs, but it causes less confusion in communication over where specific information is held. 

Create a Safe Space for Employees to Voice Concerns

Sadly, communication channels sometimes break down and cause problems. If an employee is facing issues with the communication style of a coworker, they need to have a way to share these concerns to help improve the relationship. Create an open-door policy between leaders and their employees so people have a safe space to open up and share what’s holding up production or slowing the progress of projects. 

Lead by Example

If you’re hoping to receive positive and helpful feedback, use that method when you are reviewing or leaving comments on a coworker’s projects or ideas. The same goes for company leaders, too — always give the kind of assessment or critique you would like to get in return. This may open up the opportunity for better communication regarding project-specific messaging, and speech throughout the organization. 

Make Sure Your Team Has Proper Communication Training

Lastly, it’s vital your team is properly trained on the various communication styles that may exist in the workplace and which ones are appropriate and beneficial for the team. Effective training involves flexibility, which is what online, video-based training can offer. Whether your team is scattered across the globe or works together in an office, virtual training makes sure each person is fully equipped to communicate effectively and benefit the team, no matter where they’re located. 

If you’re ready to implement better communication styles in your organization, build your skillset with online courses from MasteryTCN. 

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