Communication problems and tension between employees are universal problems in the workplace, but that does not mean that they just have to be tolerated. Many workplace problems are rooted in a lack of understanding and poor communication between people. Because of this, a great deal of interpersonal issues in the workplace can be resolved by helping employees to understand each other better and to create stronger personal connections. Below are 4 things you can do in your office to promote understanding and connection.
- Connect with your employees one-on-one, and on a regular basis. By becoming more connected to your employees, you can begin to learn about and even anticipate areas that are problematic. Encourage employees to discuss problems they are facing in their lives, both professional and personal (if they choose), and do the same yourself. This connection begins to form a company culture in which people know that leaders’ doors are open, while giving you an opening to be more connected to your team.
- Create more open space in the office where employees can comfortably gather. This space should be comfortable, open, and encourage employees to connect over coffee when they arrive, or converse during their lunch hour. This space could also be used for team meetings, staff gatherings, or anything positive that brings people together. Some offices go so far as to remove cubicle walls and redesign work spaces so people can communicate more freely.
- Don’t just provide the space, but encourage employees to connect informally in different ways. Have office lunches, or coffee breaks where employees can talk about things other than work, and don’t forget to hold celebrations – birthdays, employee anniversaries, holidays, or just to say “Good job”! Randomly provide bagels or snacks in the meeting area, and watch as employees who normally stay in their offices come together during the day.
- Provide staff development training that brings team members together, encourages understanding, and teaches skills to improve communication. We suggest using a simple, intuitive personality instrument such as Real Colors, which is delivered in a fun, interactive format allowing team members to learn and practice new communication skills together.
A key element of effective communication is being aware of the often subtle differences in how other people think and process information. Our own beliefs and perceptions serve as a filter for every communication we receive, and because of this, two people may receive the same piece of information quite differently. These unseen differences often set us up for friction and misunderstandings.
In day to day interaction, employees can become stressed, overwhelmed, or tense, and their reaction to this can cause friction within their team. Attempts to “fix” the situation can be misguided and ultimately ineffective, if the root causes of interpersonal issues are not dealt with. Creating personal connections and fostering understanding in the workplace is one of the best first steps to creating effective communication.