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7 min read

10 Steps To Improve Your Workplace Communication Skills

How successful you are at work depends in no small part on how you communicate with your co-workers and clients.

After all, however good you are at running your business, being liked and respected is crucial – especially for those with client-facing businesses.

Here are 10 simple ways to improve your workplace communication skills.


1. Talk (don’t just email)

Many modern office workers neglect the age-old art of conversation in favour of electronic communication methods such as email.

But receiving email instructions from someone sitting just behind you, for example, can be demeaning.

Emails also have the potential to be misconstrued – sometimes with disastrous results.

So why not follow up that email with a quick face-to-face chat or a call?

“Email is a great tool,” says Georgina Perry of consultancy The HR Difference.

“But communicating in person offers greater meaning and understanding than the written word alone.”


2. Be an active listener

Most people think good communication is about getting your message across.

But listening to others is also imperative to being an effective communicator.

A useful trick is to repeat what the other person says. For example, you might respond to a staff member: “OK James, I understand you feel this job is taking too much of your time. I will look at ways to spread the workload.”

It will help you to remember what was said, while also showing you are interested in what they are telling you.


3. Ask questions

It’s important not to be afraid to ask questions of your partners, suppliers and clients.

If you don’t you could well end up wasting time because you did not fully understand the task in hand.

As a business owner, it’s also vital to regularly ask your team how they are getting on and whether they need any extra support.

Either way, don’t forget to listen to the answers!


4. Keep criticism constructive

Few people respond well to a tirade of abuse.

So if you need to talk to a staff member about a mistake they have made, try asking why they are struggling and looking for ways to help them get back on track instead.

Telling off staff in front of the rest of the team is also a big no-no.

“I once had a boss who ridiculed subordinates in an attempt to make himself look better, but he just ended up looking incompetent himself,” says architect Robin Fenton.


5. Praise your staff

It’s easy to fall into the habit of only commenting on your staff members’ work when there is something wrong.

But positive feedback is a vital part of good workplace relationships.

We all like to be told we have done a good job. So don’t forget to praise staff, partners, and even your suppliers if they have done something well.

6. Accept your shortcomings

Most people find themselves on the receiving end of criticism at some point during their working lives.

If and when that time comes, try to avoid becoming defensive or making excuses.

Instead, ask the other person to give you some examples of where you have been falling short.

There may be a good reason for your behaviour. If that’s the case, then explain it as rationally as you can.

If not, admit the issue and ask for help addressing it.


7. Stay calm during conflicts

Workplace conflicts can and will arise. When they do, the most important thing is to stay calm and avoid personal attacks.

If you need to take five minutes to do this, then so be it.

From a managerial point of view, meanwhile, responding to conflicts promptly, confidentially, and with an open mind is the best way to find a satisfactory resolution.

“Treat anything you learn confidentially,” says Georgina Perry.


8. Respect cultural differences

Some of your clients or co-workers are likely to come from different cultures.

So refrain from discussing controversial topics such as politics or religion – you could end up offending someone unintentionally, or even being reported for discriminatory behaviour.

“Respect those around you, and avoid the use of slang or inappropriate language,” adds Georgina Perry.


9. Meet regularly

Holding regular team and client meetings is a great way to foster effective communication.

And don’t be afraid to mix it up: formal meetings are perfect for planning big projects; informal coffee or lunch meetings are better for team building.

Formerly a fixed-income strategist at a major investment bank, Caroline Turner says: “Having lots of team meetings to explain decisions and listen to each other’s suggestions meant we always knew we were all on the same page.”


10. Keep it professional

It’s not always a good idea to disclose too much personal information to the people you work with.

So be friendly, but remember to remain professional at all times.

If you become too close to co-workers, you may find it harder if one of you is promoted to a management position, for example.

Becoming too friendly with clients can also cause problems, for instance, if they become unable to pay their bills.



Your communication skills can have a huge impact on how you are judged by the people you encounter at work.

Make the right impression by taking a professional, yet human approach.

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Jessica Brown

Jessica Bown is an award-winning freelance journalist and editor.

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