Every relationship – personal and professional alike – depends on strong communication to thrive. However, many supervisors and employees struggle to find a balance between professionalism and openness in their in-office communications. Here are some tips to improving communication in your workplace.

Take Stock of Your Current In-Office Communications

Before you can improve any skill, you need to know your strengths and weaknesses surrounding the issue. Communication is no different. Many people choose the wrong method, timing, or tone when communicating with team members, without even knowing it. For example, if your team operates remotely, differences in time zones could mean your text messages reaches team members late in the evening, or before the workday starts. That can create resentment or cause issues to be forgotten.

Do an inventory assessing how you communicate with your team members, measuring what works and identifying when issues fell through the cracks. You can also work with an executive coach, who can help you identify shortfalls in your communications strategy, and create a plan to improve your in-office communications.

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Make Time for Regular Check-Ins

Whether it is a staff lunch, private one-on-one meetings, or just a stop off at the (real or digital) water cooler, it is important to staying connected is an important part of improving in-office communications with teammates. It’s a good idea to schedule meetings at least every few weeks, just to check in and invite dialog on projects, policies, and processes. If the only time a coworker hears from you is when you need something or there is a problem, it will create a barrier to open communication and make you harder to approach.

Encourage Open Collaboration

If you want team members who are invested in your projects and interested in the success of your business, they need to feel like they are truly a part of the team. Often, employees will hesitate to bring up criticism or challenges in front of managers out of fear it will negatively affect their next performance review. But if you invite feedback – and take your team members’ suggestions to heart – it will encourage employees to collaborate and work together more closely to resolve the problems they face. This requires persistence. You may have to ask your team members for criticism more than once before they trust you enough to tell you what they really think.

Set a Company Tone for In-Office Communication

Do you want your workplace to be casual or professional? Are you willing to joke with your team members, or would you prefer to prioritize respect? You can do a lot to affect your workplace culture by adjusting the tone in your in-office communication. Depending on your industry, some casual banter may be appropriate, and could strengthen your team’s connections. You can establish your company’s expectations about respect and formality through official policies and in leading by example. However, you should also have samples available for client-facing documents, so your workers understand and can adopt the image you are trying to project.

Compliment and Be Constructive, Rather Than Critical

It is often easy for coworkers and managers to focus on what is wrong with a project or what is blocking you from meeting your deadlines or sales goals. When that “what” is a “who,” this can easily turn critical and destructive. Your coworkers need your support, and to hear that they are doing well. This is perhaps most important when they are struggling or up against a hard task. By encouraging, and publicly complimenting team members, even while they are struggling, you can help build up their confidence and offer constructive assistance, rather than destructive criticism.

Build Connections Between People, Not Positions

Remember that your team members are people, with lives, concerns, and demands on their time and attention that go well beyond the office. Putting the work your teammates do in the context of their lives is an essential part of improving in-office communication. Find ways to build connections between coworkers independent of their assignments or job titles. Consider starting hobby clubs or discussion forums to help coworkers connect on a personal level. Invite your team’s family to a company event or outing. That way your team will see each other more as people, instead of positions.

In-office communication doesn’t have to be formal or intimidating. By getting to know your team members, and building connections and trust, you can make your workplace a safe space for coworkers to express themselves, collaborate, and help each other overcome even the toughest problems.

David Stanislaw is an organizational development specialist with over 25 years’ experience in resolving organizational dysfunction. Through business consulting and facilitation, David helps businesses and teams improve workplace culture and develop strong conflict resolution strategies. Contact us to meet with David to move toward high organizational functioning today.