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Communication Skills for the Workplace

By Catalogs Editorial Staff

letter blocksby Info Guru Lindsay Shugerman

There are all kinds of essential talents needed in life. But perhaps none is more citical, and more elusive, than developing effective communication skills for the workplace.

According to many human resource and management specialists, the ability of a manager to communicate is the number one factor in predicting turnover rates, team performance, and employee loyalty. And on the staff side, communication skills are tied to job performance, promotions and job satisfaction. With that much on the line, it’s important to identify the most important skills for all levels. Here are the top ten must-have tools you’ll need to succeed at work, whether you’re at your first job or in the corner office.

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10. Clarity

glass of clear water

The ability to say what you mean is one of the most important business skills. And yet for many people it remains one of the most neglected. Between a failure to consider what needs to be said and a fear of possible consequences (legal and otherwise), too many people avoid saying exactly what they mean. Being vague might work in the short run, but if you take the long view, you must master the skill of sharing your message clearly.

9. Timing

spiral clock

Sometimes it’s all about when a message is shared. But without paying attention to timing, your important information could be missed…or might even backfire. Learning how to choose the right time to deliver any message is a communication skill everyone needs to learn. (Hint…it’s important in your personal life as well. Ever have a parent correct you in front of friends? Same thing!)

8. Know your audience


Not everyone comes to work with the same background, skills, goals, needs or level of expertise. So why do we think that a one-size-fits-all message is a good way to communicate? The fact is different people need to hear messages in different ways. So an identical e-mail sent to engineering, warehouse, sales and marketing will be understood differently by each group. Maybe by each person. And if there are language barriers, your likelihood of being understood is even lower.

So send the tech people the message filled with technical details…but skip the clerical staff on that one. If sales issues are involved, sales and marketing will need more detail than the warehouse crew. If multiple languages are involved, using a language learning program is another good place to start.

Learning how to target your message to the audience might take more time than the click-and-send blast, but the results will be worth the effort.

7. Empathy

empathy boxes

Part of effective communication is understanding how the other people are experiencing the situation. Sure, you might think your take on an event is accurate…and it might be. But the fact is, it might only be accurate for you because of your background or frame of reference or level of involvement. Taking the time to stop and really get a sense of how the other person is feeling is a skill you’ll need to master to really have good communication skills in the workplace — and in life.

6. Confidentiality

Shhh image

They told you something in confidence. But it’s just too juicy to keep to yourself. But you just told your most trusted coworkers, so that’s okay, right? WRONG! One of the keys to building good communication skills is learning when to keep private information private.

Once word gets out that you’re sharing privileged information, communication is shot. When people feel like they can’t trust someone with private info, they’ll start weighing any sharing. That could spell the end of your credibility at work.

5. Non-defensive

man with shielfd

OK, I get it. No one likes to be told that they’re wrong or that their idea won’t work. But accepting valid criticism openly is another part of your toolbox of workplace communication skills. Of course, that doesn’t mean you have to cave in to every nay-sayer or abandon every idea someone criticizes. It just means you have to be willing to hear and consider other viewpoints without jumping in to defend your idea just because it’s yours.

4. Honesty

honesty sign

“No, there aren’t going to be any layoffs.” “Yes, of course there are opportunities to advance here.” “The report is almost done.” And then…yeah, you know the rest of the story. The pink slips fly and nobody moves up…except the manager’s niece. And that report? Well, in truth, it wasn’t even started.

It’s easy to say what you think someone wants to hear. But for a business to work well, honesty has to be the official policy. That doesn’t mean you have to be cruel and share every thought. But practicing compassionate honesty is one of the keys to making it work at work.

3. Draw everyone in

arrows for group

I hear this over and over from clients. Someone at work takes the floor at a meeting and talks…and talks…and talks. And even worse, they don’t let anyone get a word in edgewise. They have every detail worked out, thank you very much. And your input isn’t wanted or needed.

While it might be tempting to nail down every single detail of your great new concept, then share it ALL with everyone at the meeting, the true skill lies in an old adage…”Leave ’em wanting more.”

Make your message brief and to the point. Give your audience enough information to get involved, then let them lead the conversation. Let them ask the questions, offer ideas and build on what you started. Make it about the team or company instead of just you, and everyone moves up.

2. Get to the point


When it comes to communication, less is indeed often more. Think carefully about the message you want to share. Consider how to convey your idea, suggestion or concern clearly and briefly. Then do it that way. Forget the flowery add-on’s. Leave the corny jokes behind. Get to the point, share and move on. Your coworkers will love you!

1. Listening

person listening

No matter how many of these other skills you master, there is one that trumps them all. Listening. Really listening. Not just hearing words for the sake of responding. The skill of active listening for both the words and the intent and emotion behind them (called the meta-message) is the single most essential business skill when it comes to being a truly skilled communicator.

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