Are you the sort of boss that CC’s everyone, for everything? Are you the office gossip? Do you roll your eyes at bad jokes, then find yourself repeating them the next morning at the coffee machine? There are plenty of communication sins that take place at offices around the world, most of them forgivable. But due largely in part to the increasing diversity of today’s workforce, it’s imperative that senior managers recognize the importance of adapting communication styles for every situation, and every employee. The way you address one employee may never raise problems, but could raise eyebrows with another. By appreciating the unique personalities of your staff, understanding your corporate culture, and educating yourself on a number of communication techniques, you can create a happier office environment and improve your company’s performance.
Step 1. Know Your Audience
From your daily interactions with your colleagues, you must have a sense of the Do’s and Don’ts. In most organizations, there are fairly clear Don’ts – religion, politics, weight gain or loss, family planning… these are some, not all, of the most popular conversation topics to avoid. But perhaps you’ve identified some other areas of interest within your organization. Make a mental note (or even a digital note, if that helps you remember) of certain hot-button topics and language to avoid. It’s not always possible or even advisable to tiptoe around the tough stuff, but a little tact never hurt.
At the same time, this isn’t just about the Don’ts. Pay attention to the topics of interest among your staff. Do they respond better to an authority figure, or a mentor? (Think Machiavelli.) Do they prefer to discuss sensitive matters in a one-on-one setting, or as a larger body, like a State of the Union address? The key is not to figure out hard and fast rules, but to learn how to adapt your communication style for any scenario that may come your way. So by learning more about your employees and their preferences, you’ll establish a sense of how best to talk about the big stuff. The small stuff, too.
Step 2. Choose Your Channel
Some companies operate almost silently, except for the sound of fingertips tapping away on a keyboard. Does your office prefer emails? Or are your halls covered in brightly colored bulletins with information about the newest hires, monthly sales figures, and highlights from last week’s Happy Hour? Or maybe you work in an office where employees thoroughly enjoy hours-long meetings, daily. Whatever the style, chances are that you’ve identified a trend in responsiveness and engagement from your employees. Hone in on whichever method your staff prefers, and try to make this the standard. Company culture is not static – it’s fluid, influenced and affected by every member of your team. So be a part of the change, and make it a change for the best.
Step 3. The Best and Most Brilliant Communication Techniques
The reigning kings of customer service come from Cupertino, California. Apple knows what they’re doing, and they do it well. Straight from their customer service manual, one of the most effective methods of persuasion and conflict resolution is called the “Feel, Felt, Found” method. Consider the situation: you’ve decided to restructure a certain department, and your employees are experiencing frustration with this new change. They’re unhappy with the circumstances, and now it’s up to you to fix the problem. How can you allay their concerns, while maintaining order? Try something like this:
“Team, I know that the recent shift has been a big topic of discussion lately. And I wanted to tell you, you’re not alone. I’m also still adjusting to the new structure. We’ve encountered similar situations here at Company LLC in the past, and I’ve felt the growing pains, too. But I always found that with a clearer direction, we came out of the restructure with more motivation, and a better atmosphere, not to mention an improved work flow. Your concerns are important to me, but I’m grateful for your patience and positive attitudes as we work to embrace this new change!”
First, you acknowledge how they’re feeling, and tell them that you can sympathize. Next, you relate to a time when you felt the same way, and how you handled it. Finally, close by mentioning how you found a new approach or outlook on the situation. This works in most situations, and you’ll be surprised by how often you can implement this with your staff, both individually and on a larger scale.
This is just one of many communication styles, but with techniques like these, senior managers will figure out how adapting communication styles for their employees can help them to succeed.