Last week we touched on one of the biggest hardships plaguing office relationships: time management. The other issue that tends to spread quickly and quietly through the cubicles is miscommunication. Solid teamwork rests mostly on employees at all levels feeling comfortable expressing themselves in the workplace. The challenge with people forming personal, friendly relationships in the office is that sometimes when we care about someone, it’s difficult to offer or take constructive criticism. Obviously, the solution is not to restrict friendships at work; that would make people exceptionally resentful. However, there are ways to ensure that the communication among colleagues is taken at face value: we are all here to achieve a professional goal, and it’s important that we work together amicably to get there.
- Email isn’t the best medium for every conversation. Sometimes we get an email that just rubs us the wrong way. Since the advent of electronic communication, it’s obvious that we have lost a vital part of the conversation in being able to see facial expressions and body language and hearing the tone of voice. If you receive an email that puts you on the defensive, step away from the keyboard! Take some breathing time, and seek out the sender. Chances are the message wasn’t meant critically, and continuing the conversation in person or over the phone will provide a more congenial solution.
Bonus tip: Not everyone is great at deciphering sarcasm, especially via email. Be aware of your audience if sarcasm is one of your regular communication tools.
- You don’t have to be friends with everyone in the office. If you’re a people-pleaser, this bullet may come as a surprise. While it’s true that, as adults, one of the best places to make friends is at work, there really is no obligation to invite everyone to lunch or send everyone a birthday card. If you tend to be an introvert or struggle in large groups, don’t stress yourself out about forcing friendships at work, especially if you’re new to the office. Once you start to become more familiar with your surroundings and how you interact with people in a professional capacity, relationships and friendships will develop naturally.
Bonus tip: Be welcoming to the new people. Learning new policies and procedures in a new environment is stressful enough, let alone doing it in a group full of strangers. Even something as simple as saying “good morning” or inviting someone to sit at the same table at lunch is a good way to take the pressure off the new person needing to break the ice.
- Having friends in the office makes people happier. In her LinkedIn blog from earlier this year, Catherine Fisher remarked on the Slideshare study findings that relationships at work make for happier employees. Especially for millennial workers, communication and relationships outside of work with managers is not unheard of. Younger employees are also pushing the boundaries of what was previously considered off-limits conversation, including discussions of personal relationships, family, and even salary. While the tides are turning in regard to what people are willing to share, some companies still have limits and rules about what kind of personal information can be divulged between coworkers. Be sure to check with HR about your company’s policy before discussing sensitive information with your colleagues. See the rest of the study details here.
- Use unique team-building exercises. There’s no need to go around the room and have everyone introduce themselves and offer up a unique fact. One, it takes a long time in large groups, and two, it’s something we’ve all been doing since preschool. It’s time to use grown up team-building ideas, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get creative, and it definitely doesn’t mean it can’t be fun. Consider something like an improv day or a company-wide potluck brainstorming lunch. While some people get sweaty palms when it comes to public speaking, if these events are presented casually (plan it for a Tuesday, and ask everyone to show up in jeans!), then there is much less pressure, and the skills that are developed in the process are invaluable to the workplace dynamic. These teamwork opportunities allow ideas and opinions to be shared among departments that may not often connect with each other.
Having a relaxed and comfortable environment where everyone’s voice is acknowledged is the best way to keep ideas coming and productivity at its peak. Everyone contributes to the team effort and appreciates input from all levels. Using these suggestions to cure miscommunication woes at work will surely help keep 2015 harmonious!