As a leader, you must understand the different communication styles in the workplace, recognize toxic communicators, and use positive communication techniques to bring your team together.
Communication is at the core of everything we do at work, from brainstorming ideas to giving feedback. However, communication styles in the workplace can vary widely based on an individual’s background or even their personality.
What’s Assertive Communication?
Among the different communication styles in the workplace, assertive communication is the healthiest one. These employees are clear and concise and they use engaging body language to support their message.
An assertive communicator is honest. They confidently share their ideas and opinions, but they also know when to listen to others. As a result, they give thoughtful answers and incorporate the feedback shared by others.
They ask questions when they need to gather information, speak from a place of expertise, and don’t hesitate to point out issues. However, their assertiveness doesn’t impede on others.
Why Is Passive Communication Bad at the Workplace?
Passive communicators might seem introverted or disengaged at first. However, these communicators tend to remain quiet or agree with assertive communicators. This style of communication can be a symptom of an environment where people don’t feel safe enough to speak up.
As a manager, it’s difficult to figure out if passive communicators need help or are happy with their job. Unfortunately, you’re also missing out on their contribution.
Learning to recognize the different communication styles in the workplace is the first step to creating a healthier work environment where everyone can collaborate.
Should One Use Aggressive Communication at Work?
Aggressive communicators share some traits with assertive employees. Both share their thoughts and ideas openly.
However, aggressive team members lack the qualities that make assertive communicators excellent team players, sometimes to the extent that they make others uncomfortable.
Aggressive communication includes negative traits, such as ignoring others, interrupting them, or criticizing their ideas virulently. In extreme cases, aggressive communicators can become workplace bullies who use words or body language to intimidate others.
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Passive-Aggressive and Manipulative Communication
Not all negative communication styles in the workplace are obvious. However, passive-aggressive and manipulative communicators have something in common. Their communication style revolves around dishonesty.
A passive-aggressive person will not say what they think openly. Instead, they will allude to it with remarks or jokes. As a result, these team members might feel resentful or might feel unsafe about speaking up.
Manipulative communicators often pick and choose what they say based on who is present. Controlling information and sometimes sharing inaccurate facts are strategies they use to reach a goal, usually career advancement.
Passive-aggressive and manipulative communication result in a toxic workplace where people don’t trust each other.
The Challenges of the Modern Workplace
Communication is more important than ever as businesses become increasingly complex. However, this modern workplace also creates challenges for effective and open communication.
Digital Communication Channels
Using email, text, or chat can be challenging because these channels don’t convey tone or body language. As a result, communication can come across as overly formal or informal based on the expressions used, but it might not reflect what the sender intended.
Plus, some organizations need help finding the right communication platforms and introducing new apps before employees have the time to familiarize themselves with these tools.
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Fewer Direct Exchanges
Between the rise of flex schedules and the increasing number of teams who have members in different time zones, there are fewer opportunities for direct communication.
It can make communication feel less natural, and employees might overthink what a co-worker meant if they need to wait hours for a response.
The modern workplace is a diverse environment. It’s a strength but also means that cultures, languages, and generational differences can make communication more complex.
Did you know that employees receive 120 emails a day on average? It translates to one email every four minutes during an eight-hour workday.
Information overload is real and can make it challenging for employees to keep up with all the communication requests they receive.
How to Improve Communication Styles in the Workplace
Too many businesses need to approach communication as a process and develop guidelines or a framework to enhance communication. Here are a few strategies to explore.
Change starts at the leadership level. Leaders can be C-suite executives, team leaders, or project managers.
An organization that puts people with a positive and assertive communication style in leadership positions will create an environment that fosters open exchanges and promotes team building. In addition, these leaders can model good communication practices for everyone and inspire others to become more assertive.
Leaders should also take deliberate steps to create an environment where people feel safe about speaking. They need to call out aggressive communicators and engage those who tend to be passive.
Building a Framework
Businesses need to adopt the right tools and best practices to facilitate communication, especially in a digital environment.
For instance, a team can use a system that immediately identifies an email’s priority level by using specific keywords in the headline.
Another strategy is to have team members check in with a project manager every three to four hours to report their progress, or ask everyone to block a time slot for a weekly or bi-weekly meeting or virtual get-together.
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Challenging Negative Styles
Challenging toxic communicators should be a priority since they threaten open and effective communication.
Having a one-on-one conversation with an aggressive communicator is the best way to point out their negative habits. Give specific examples, make it clear that these behaviors are unacceptable, and consider reporting the person to HR if they crossed a line.
If your team has passive employees, approach them and engage them. Find out if an issue prevents them from communicating and work together to develop strategies that can boost their confidence.
Passive-aggressive or manipulative communicators can also benefit from a heart-to-heart. Ask if an issue prevents open communication, and explain which behaviors are unacceptable.
Your team can benefit from diversity, but communication styles need to align and reflect effective and respectful communication practices. Learning to recognize the different communication styles in the workplace is the first step to creating a healthier work environment where everyone can collaborate.