Communication situations you’ll take part in at work

In a business setting, you’ll likely take part in various types of communication situations while working with your colleagues and superiors. 

Some of these communication situations may be formal, structured, and planned in advance. 

Others may be informal, less structured, and spontaneous. 

Some may be a combination of these factors.

In this guide, we’ll talk about the types of communication situations you may find yourself in while operating in a business environment — from various types of conversations, meetings, feedback, and public speeches, to various types of job interviews, negotiations, and conflicts. We’ll also illustrate each situation with a suitable example and offer some actionable tips on how to act in each type of situation.

Conversations

According to the definition in the Cambridge dictionary, conversations involve communication between two or more individuals, during which “thoughts, feelings, and ideas are expressed, questions are asked and answered, or news and information is exchanged”. 

Conversations may include and combine various types of communication:

  • Written communication, which may:
    • stand on its own (e.g. a string of direct messages in a chat app discussing the details of a task);
    • serve as a means to plan further communication, in which case written communication may lead to verbal communication (e.g. emails and direct messages in the line of “Do you have a minute to talk?”/“Can you come to my office for a moment?”).
  • Verbal communication, which may: 
    • be planned (e.g. be a result of “Do you have a minute to talk?”/“Can you come to my office for a moment?” messages);
    • be unplanned (e.g. you start talking with a teammate when you two accidentally start making coffee at the same time);
    • be followed by nonverbal communication that adds additional meaning to your words (e.g. looking at your watch while talking with a colleague may signal that you want to end the conversation soon).
  • Nonverbal communication, which may come into play if the communicators can see each other, but are currently standing too far away to communicate verbally (e.g. you raise your hand with a thumbs-up high in the air, to signal approval to a colleague standing at the opposite end of a large hall). 
  • Visual communication, which may:
    • be coupled with verbal communication (e.g. you print out an image and show it in-person, to start a verbal discussion about it );
    • be coupled with written communication (e.g. you attach an image to a direct message in your team chat app, to start a written discussion about it).
  • Active listening, which is a crucial element in verbal conversations, as you’ll need to listen and understand what others are trying to convey, to reply appropriately.

Conversations may be planned or unplanned, and they may happen between colleagues, or between employees and their superiors

Here’s what each listed type of conversation is about:

Planned conversations

Planned conversations are discussions in which the subject matter being discussed had been given previous thought. 

Such conversations may occur between two individuals, in which case we refer to them as 1-on-1 conversations. Or, they may occur between more than two individuals, in which case they may be referred to as group discussions

In cases when the conversation is expected to be a more difficult one, you may want to take some precautions to help you feel more prepared and more in control:

  • think about what you want to say;
  • think about how the other people may respond;
  • think about how the conversation may unfold;
  • think about how the conversation may end. 

If the conversation is planned in advance by all parties, with a clear agenda, date, time, and place, it is usually referred to as a “meeting”.

🔸 Example:

An enterprise sales specialist wants to show her boss how much she works and how much she has contributed to the company’s goals, so she writes him an email about the work she has accomplished in the previous period. In response, she gets a commandment for her dedication and hard work.

An email detailing employee accomplishments to the boss — image source: Clockify.me

How to have better planned conversations

For a planned conversation to go well, you need to come prepared. Luckily, as these types of conversations are pre-arranged, you have time to get ready. Here are some tips for better planned conversations:

  • Create an agenda or ask for it — What needs to be discussed and in what order? You can make notes to help you keep the conversation on track if the interaction is verbal. If the other person or people are the ones who decide on the topic of discussion, ask them for the agenda in advance so that you can prepare;
  • Structure your communication — Once you’re familiar with the agenda, you can structure your interaction so that it’s easy to follow. If you’re interacting over a platform for written communication, break the message into sections and paragraphs and use bullets and lists. If you’re using a chat app such as Pumble, it’s better to write one cohesive message then send messages line by line in order not to distract colleagues with too many notifications;
  • Think about what you might be asked — A conversation is a two-way street, and you can only prepare to an extent. However, you can try to anticipate potential questions and bottlenecks and plan for them.

Unplanned conversations

Unplanned conversations are conversations that happen on the spur of the moment. 

Such conversations may also occur between two individuals (in which case we may refer to them as 1-on-1 conversations), or between more than two individuals (in which case we may refer to them as group discussions)

They may start as informal and grow into formal conversations, but they may also start more formally, and lead to more informal topics later. 

In cases when the unplanned conversation is a difficult one, it is usually triggered by strong emotions and may leave the communicators with strong emotions. 

🔸 Example:

A website designer goes to the kitchen to have lunch, where she finds her colleague, a front-end software developer, already having her lunch. As they eat their lunch, the two colleagues talk about what they did over the weekend, but the conversation quickly turns to a semi-formal discussion about the design solutions for the website landing pages of their newest client.  

Tips to have better unplanned conversations

Unplanned conversations can catch us off-guard, but they don’t have to be difficult to handle. Here are some tips to help you have better unplanned conversations at work:

  • Listen carefully — It’s easy to come to a misunderstanding if you don’t know what kind of conversation is ahead of you, so you need to listen attentively to get the message right;
  • Think before you speak — Even though the interaction is impromptu, make sure that what you’re saying is in alignment with what you want to convey. Otherwise, you may end up blurting out something inappropriate or unintentionally hurting the other person;
  • Clarify — If you’re not sure you’ve understood something or you suspect the interlocutor might have misunderstood, take a moment to clarify or ask for clarification. It will save you unnecessary tension or conflict;
  • Follow up — Unplanned conversations are usually highly unstructured, so if the interaction has taken a more formal turn, e.g., you ended up discussing a plan for a new project during a water cooler talk, make sure to follow up with a more formal and structured summary.

Conversations between colleagues

Conversations with colleagues involve conversations between two or more employees who are on the same hierarchy level in the organization’s structure. 

The subject and context of the conversation may be formal or informal, depending on the situation.

🔸 Example:

A front-end software developer sends a direct message to a back-end software developer sitting next to her, via a team communication app: “Do you have a minute?”. She wants to ask him about a specific piece of code.

Although the back-end software developer in question has his headphones on and is seemingly fully-focused on a task at hand, he takes off the said headphones and engages in a quick conversation with the front-end software developer. 

This is a case when a written conversation leads to a face-to-face verbal conversation.

Tips to have better conversations with colleagues

Having conversations with co-workers can be tricky for newcomers, but if you remain friendly and honest with them, you’re likely to be met with the same cordiality. Here are some general tips for better conversations with colleagues:

  • Choose the right channel of communication — For example, if you require quick help, it’s better to approach a colleague face-to-face than send a formal email. On the other hand, if you’re planning a birthday gift for a co-worker, you might want to create a private Pumble channel where the team can discuss the gift in private without looking suspicious while whispering around the office;
  • Be approachable — People will enjoy talking to you if you’re approachable, i.e., you smile, nod, initiate small talk, listen actively, encourage feedback, etc.;
  • Be considerate of co-workers — Respect your colleagues’ time and energy and don’t disturb them unnecessarily. For example, if a co-worker posts a message in a public channel and you have a follow-up question that concerns only you, don’t clutter the main view of the channel but start a thread from the message where you can discuss the issue without disturbing others with notifications.

Conversations between employees and superiors

Conversations between employees and their superiors, such as managers, are conversations between two or more professionals who are NOT in the same hierarchy level in the organization’s structure. 

The subject of the conversation may also be formal or informal, depending on the situation — however, considering that the two individuals do not belong to the same hierarchy level, the subject and context of the conversation are more likely to be formal.

🔸 Example:

The chair of the department of pediatrics sends a message in a public channel of a chat app to a group of pediatricians: “Can you come to my office for a moment?”. He wants to discuss the health of a recently admitted patient. 

The pediatricians arrive shortly, and they engage in a quick discussion.

This is another case when a written conversation leads to a face-to-face verbal conversation.

Tips to have better conversations with superiors

Many people struggle to talk to their higher-ups, especially when they need to bring up a sensitive topic, such as a raise. So here are some tips to help you have a better conversation with a superior:

  • Be direct — Your manager or another higher-up is probably on a tight schedule, so make yourself clear. No matter how sensitive a situation may be, they won’t appreciate your beating around the bush;
  • Be honest — If a higher-up wants to know your opinion, they mean it. Don’t hesitate to share your honest opinion, especially if it concerns you directly;
  • Be professional — However, being honest without tact can come across as rude. No matter your feelings on the subject, keep your emotions at bay and deliver the message in a calm, professional tone.

Tips to have better conversations with employees

Being on the other side of the employee/superior conversation can be equally nerve-wracking. Here are some tips to help you out:

  • Be respectful — Be considerate of your subordinates and try to make them feel comfortable by showing them respect, truly listening to them, and treating them as equals in conversation;
  • Check your tone — Make sure you never talk down to your employees. For example, if they offer an idea and you don’t like it, praise their initiative, thank them, and explain why it wouldn’t work instead of shutting them down;
  • Have an open-door policy — Having an open-door policy means employees are free to approach you with any issue without fear or hesitation. This way, you encourage open communication and genuine rapport.

Feedback

Feedback

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, feedback is “the transmission of evaluative or corrective information about an action, event, or process to the original or controlling source”. 

In terms of structure, feedback may be:

  • Unstructured feedback, i.e. unplanned in terms of timing and content (e.g. providing quick praise or reprimand);
  • Structured feedback, i.e. systematic in terms of communication, with a clear plan for timing and content (e.g. performance reviews).

In terms of constructiveness, feedback may be:

  • Positive feedback — affirming comments about past behaviors that should be continued;
  • Negative feedback — corrective comments about past behaviors that should not be repeated;
  • Positive feed-forward — affirming comments about behaviors that should improve performance in the future;
  • Negative feed-forward — corrective comments about behaviors that should be avoided in the future.

Feedback may occur:

  • On the spur of the moment, in which case it is usually informal;
  • On a regular basis, in which case it is usually formal. 

Sources of feedback in a business setting may include:

  • Customers — they rate the quality of products and services provided, via surveys or a complaint system; 
  • Statistical data — they include statistical measures such as Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that provide objective information about the performance of individuals;
  • Superiors — they include supervisors, team leaders, and managers who can offer performance feedback that compares the individual’s performance to the expected workflows, procedures, and policies;
  • Peers — they include co-workers who work in the same or similar job positions, and can thus provide performance feedback from the point of view of a person who performs the same or similar types of tasks and duties;
  • Subordinates — they include employees who offer “upward feedback” to their superiors, such as feedback about the leadership styles of their managers.

The dominant types of communication used for feedback are:

  • verbal communication, coupled with active listening, for the best effect;
  • written communication, sometimes coupled with visuals.

According to Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen, the authors of “Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well”, there are three distinct types of feedback in the workplace: evaluation, appreciation, and coaching feedback.

Here’s what each is about:

Evaluation feedback

The purpose of evaluation feedback is to help the person receiving it understand how they have performed in a task, to better understand what is expected of them at work. 

Evaluation feedback may involve:

  • a rating or ranking system that compares employees against each other;
  • a set of standards that compares employees against the said standards;
  • both a rating or ranking system and a set of standards. 

For evaluation feedback to be successful, it should involve:

  • timeliness;
  • clear expectations in terms of roles and responsibilities the employee will be assessed for;
  • a clear purpose, in terms of what the feedback will focus on;
  • accountability for the processes and results;
  • clear records of the employee’s progress.

🔸 Example:

A sales manager writes an evaluation feedback review in a Google doc, detailing praise and improvement tips for an enterprise sales specialist, in terms of her innovation and creativity, collaboration and teamwork, customer service, problem-solving, and communication skills in general. 

He sends her the link to the Google doc via a direct message in a chat app. 

A link to evaluation feedback — Pumble chat app

Tips for giving better evaluation feedback

Research indicates that an overwhelming majority of employees love receiving both positive and negative feedback — as many as 82%. Here are some tips on how to provide better evaluation feedback:

  • Don’t use subjective statements and generalizations — The statement “I feel you’re not doing your best.” is a great example of what not to tell when giving feedback. Instead of resorting to vague comments, point out the exact problems in performance and how to fix them;
  • Be systematic — It’s best to have a clear, detailed format of what standard evaluation feedback should look like and stick to it. A written evaluation is much better than a wishy-washy informal talk that will leave the recipient of feedback confused;
  • Be honest — Withholding information won’t help either of you. So be straightforward, but instead of fixating on the problem, focus on the solution.

Appreciation feedback

The purpose of appreciation feedback is to show appreciation or thank an employee for their performance and contributions. 

Such feedback is a great tactic to build trust and encourage the employee receiving the feedback to keep up the good work, as their efforts will likely be recognized and appreciated in the future as well. 

🔸 Example:

At a daily stand-up meeting with the product team, the team leader praises a product designer for his recent redesign of a product, in terms of innovation, design, and practicality. He also links the successful redesign with the recent growth of sales for the said product. 

Tips for giving better appreciation feedback

To make appreciative feedback successful, it’s best that you:

  • Make it specific — so that the person understands what they did to deserve praise, and what they need to continue doing;
  • Link it to specific value — so that the person can better understand their roles and responsibilities in a company, as well as their importance and level of contributions to common goals;
  • Make it authentic — so that the person understands that the feedback is genuine and sincere, and not mere courtesy or a part of a routine.

Coaching feedback

The purpose of coaching feedback is to provide the person receiving the feedback with regular and annual reviews that will inspire them to strive for further growth and improvement. Such feedback may have elements of both evaluation and appreciation feedback.

🔸 Example:

A customer support director providing the members of his team with coaching feedback on a bi-monthly basis. He organizes 1-to-1 meetings for this purpose and provides feedback to each individual customer support specialist in person.

Tips for giving better coaching feedback

Providing coaching feedback is all about consistency and constantly finding opportunities for improvement. Here are some tips on how to make coaching feedback successful:

  • Balance criticism and appreciation — Regular feedback needs to focus both on the good and the bad to keep employees motivated and engaged;
  • Adopt a standard format — Much like evaluation, coaching feedback should come in a familiar format. This recurring familiarity makes it much less intimidating;
  • Offer actionable advice — Coaching feedback should be about finding practical solutions to concrete problems. A study on constructive criticism has found that as many as 74% of employees were aware of the issue referred to in the feedback but didn’t know how to deal with it. That’s why providing guidance, instead of just evaluation, is key.

Meetings

Meetings

According to the definition, meetings are a more formal gathering of two or more people that have the purpose of discussing a particular topic, sharing particular information, or reaching an agreement. 

Meetings may occur face-to-face or be conducted via telephone or video conferencing. 

The types of communication that prevail in meetings are:

  • Verbal communication, which is the dominant type in such communication situations;
  • Nonverbal communication, which may accompany verbal communication in a significant amount;
  • Visual communication, which may come into play if there is a whiteboard in the conference room where the meetings are held, in which case it may be used for mind maps, loops, and other visualizations of ideas;
  • Active listening, which is especially vital in meetings, considering that verbal communication is the dominant type. 

In contrast, written communication is rarer. But, it may come into play if the regular meeting cannot take place — for example, the person who usually helms daily stand-up meetings is currently unavailable, so she asks the expected attendees to write what they are working on today in a thread in a team communication app. 

A thread detailing a written stand-up meeting — Pumble chat app

We recognize kickoff, status update, decision-making, problem-solving, innovation, team building, and onboarding meetings.

Here’s what each of the listed types of meetings is about:

Kickoff meetings

A kickoff meeting is the first meeting between the team working on a project, and the client who commissioned the project. 

Such meetings usually include:

  • the introductions between the members of the team and the client;
  • the discussion of the roles the team members will have in this project;
  • additional process explanations, if there are new members of the team who are unfamiliar with the quality standards of the company;
  • any necessary legalities, such as additional equipment required;
  • various other project planning activities.

🔸 Example:

A team consisting of one front-end software developer, one back-end software developer, and one designer, having their first meeting with a client who has hired their company to build a travel website.

Tips for an effective kickoff meeting

A kickoff meeting is the single most important meeting you’ll have with a client, which will set the tone for further collaboration on the project. Here’s how to make it successful:

  • Have an agenda and stick to it — Prepare an agenda and introduce the main discussion items before you actually start. This will allow you to stick to the timeline and stay on topic;
  • Don’t broadcast information — If you’re going to spend the entire meeting bombarding the client with information, you could have just shared a Google doc with them. This meeting is essential for finding the common ground and discussing the project at large. You can leave the details for your internal team meeting;
  • Establish the channel and frequency of communication — How will you communicate about the project progress? Should you have weekly check-ins? How can you reach each other in-between meetings if something comes up? Establishing communication terms from the get-go will save you a lot of trouble later.

Status update meetings

Status update meetings involve regular meetings between members of the team, for the purpose of sharing updates on individual progress, challenges, and plans for future work. 

Such status update meetings are usually scheduled regularly, such as every day at a particular time, or every week, at a particular day and time.

🔸 Example:

A string of daily stand-up meetings, every day at 10 a.m., that includes the members of the development team tasked with developing and maintaining a fashion app.

Tips for a successful status update meeting

As status update meetings are a regular occurrence, they need to be highly efficient and effective. Here’s how to make the most of your status update meetings:

  • Consider sharing info on progress in advance — Depending on the number of team members and how tightly packed your agenda is, you might want to consider sharing your status updates in the written form before the meeting. That way, you can all come prepared to discuss any difficulties and share ideas;
  • Don’t let a narrow topic overtake the meeting — If there’s a particular topic a few of the team members are particularly concerned about, it’s best to take it to another, separate meeting or discuss it in another way and not sidetrack the main discussion;
  • Make sure every voice is heard — The purpose of this type of meeting is to get a status update from every team member, so make sure everyone provides at least some input and don’t let a couple of people “hijack” the meeting.

Decision-making meetings

Decision-making meetings involve dedicated gatherings of smaller or larger groups of people, for the purpose of making important decisions. 

Such meetings may involve:

  • gathering information;
  • evaluating available options;
  • comparing the available options against each other;
  • voting on the most suitable solutions.

🔸 Example:

An HR team holding a meeting, to decide on the best candidate for a customer support specialist to whom they want to make a job offer, based on results in interviews.

Tips for a successful decision-making meeting

Decision-making meetings empower every team member to contribute toward finding the best way of reaching the common goal. Here’s how to make it effective:

  • Settle on the criteria for decision-making — It helps to have a clear formula for comparing options against each other;
  • Tap into every team member’s expertise — Each team member has their own role in the project, so consult every one of them on their area of expertise;
  • Don’t let the meeting veer off course — Keep the discussion focused, and if someone has an idea about something else, encourage them to write it down and save it for a brainstorming session, for example.

Problem-solving meetings

Problem-solving meetings involve dedicated gatherings of smaller or larger groups of people, for the purpose of addressing a previously identified problem or creating strategies and plans for the future. 

Such meetings usually require that the attendees:

  • define problem scopes;
  • identify problem priorities;
  • identify problem-solving opportunities;
  • single out potential threats;
  • brainstorm and evaluate potential solutions;
  • vote on the most suitable solutions.

🔸 Example:

A development team attending a spur-of-the-moment video meeting about the solutions for an unexpected feature-related bug in their newest app update.

Tips for an effective problem-solving meeting

These meetings have a highly specific objective, i.e., solve the problem, which doesn’t allow for much leeway. Here’s how to host a successful problem-solving meeting:

  • Encourage people to poke holes in each idea — The power of problem-solving meetings lies in different perspectives. If a person doesn’t see a problem in a proposed solution, someone else is bound to discover it;
  • Assign a person to take notes — Team members can bounce ideas off each other fast, and someone should capture them in writing for future reference;

Do a follow-up in writing — In the example with the software development team above, someone would use the notes to draft a written version of the final decision and pin it in the team chat app for everyone to refer to as needed.

Innovation meetings

Innovation meetings involve the process of brainstorming with your team, for the purpose of sharing ideas and finding innovative solutions by thinking outside of the box. 

The participants of such a meeting may use various techniques to find as many suitable ideas as they can, before making a shortlist of the best available options they can consider further. 

These techniques may include:

  • a long brainstorming session;
  • ranking and evaluating ideas, based on specific criteria and clear arguments;
  • voting on the best ideas.

🔸 Example:

A marketing team attending a meeting to brainstorm a suitable name for the company’s new time converter app.

Tips for better innovation meetings

Innovation meetings are a great time for the team to let its creative juices flow. Here’s how to get the most out of them:

  • Set the framework — Although these types of meetings allow the participants to let their imaginations run wild, there needs to be a framework to help focus everyone’s attention or the ideas can get all over the place. For example, you can focus on innovation in one department or one aspect of your business;
  • Have a facilitator — Have someone lead the meeting and guide the participants. This will help keep the tone respectful and allow everyone to contribute without overlapping;

Finish with action items — If possible, nudge the participants to take accountability for their ideas by committing to taking specific steps toward the execution of the idea.

Team-building meetings

Team-building meetings involve gatherings dedicated to strengthening professional relationships between the members of a team and the corporate culture overall. 

The focus of such meetings may revolve around planning and realizing team-building outings, events, or fun office activities.

🔸 Example:

A meeting focused on the realization of a string of quick, but fun time management games and activities, such as “How long is a minute?”, “Race to the Ace of Spades”, and the “Big Picture puzzle challenge”.

Tips for great team-building meetings

Team building meetings are a great way to strengthen the team. Here are some tips to make them successful:

  • Lead with intent — Of course, team-building meetings are about socializing with co-workers, but what else do you want from them? Maybe you want to integrate new hires or work on certain aspects of the company culture, such as building trust. This intent will help you develop better team building activities;
  • Consider scheduling it during work hours — Your team will appreciate the meeting much more if it provides a little break from work. It doesn’t have to be too long either;
  • Choose activities that promote collaboration — Learning to work together in a laid-back atmosphere will help your team improve their collaboration in the office as well. You can do anything from office trivia to paintball, as long as you have the participants working together.

Onboarding meetings

Onboarding meetings usually involve a series of events that help the new hire understand:

  • what is expected of them at their new job position;
  • what are the team’s workflows they too should follow and implement.

Such meetings may include 1-on-1 meetings with HR specialists, direct superiors, and work buddies, but also introductory meetings with key colleagues, and subsequent check-in meetings with the HR specialist and work buddy. 

🔸 Example:

On the first day for a new customer support specialist, the HR specialist in charge of him shows him around the office. 

She then takes him to her office where he fills out an onboarding form, she explains the key company policies, and they fill out his company profiles with his basic information together.

Then, the HR specialist introduces the customer support specialist to his direct superior and work buddy, who explain the team’s workflows and expectations. 

The customer support specialist then has an introductory meeting or online chat with the rest of the customer support team, and the group of software developers he is expected to cooperate with in the future.  

Throughout the first few weeks, the HR specialist and the work buddy get in touch with the customer support specialist via informal meetings, just to make sure he is doing well.

Tips for successful onboarding meetings

Onboarding meetings are vital for the successful integration of new hires and can prevent employee turnover. Here’s what you can do to make them better:

  • Start from scratch — When explaining company processes, apps, and practices to new employees, don’t make assumptions about their previous experience but start explaining from scratch and in detail;
  • Make yourself approachable — Stay professional, but also be friendly and approachable and make it clear that there are no stupid questions and that they can (and should!) ask anything that needs clarification;
  • Encourage feedback — Ask them for feedback always. When onboarding multiple people at the same time, you can even create an anonymous survey and encourage new employees to provide honest feedback about the onboarding process.

Public speeches

According to the Merriam-Webster definition, public speaking is “the art of effective oral communication with an audience”. 

Just like meetings, public speaking also includes a larger group of people, but, these groups of people have more distinct roles. So, although meetings imply that the attendees will be equally active participants, in public speaking, we distinguish between the speaker, who has a more active role, and the audience, who has a more passive role.

The public speaker may rely on all 5 types of communication to convey a message. For example, a presentation usually involves verbal talk, followed by nonverbal cues, and maybe even a PowerPoint or Prezi presentation with visuals and bullet points that highlight important phrases and key facts on the slides. Of course, all this would be in vain without a receptive audience who is actively listening and interpreting what the speaker is trying to convey. 

Instances of public speaking may lead to a QA situation, where the audience asks additional questions about the topic presented, and the speaker replies. 

In an office setting, public speaking may involve lectures, presentations, speeches, and workshops — their purpose may be to inform, persuade, acute, or entertain the audience.

Here’s what each type of public speech is about:

Speaking to inform

Speaking to inform involves a speaker who is presenting facts, statistics, or general information on a topic. 

The success of a speech whose purpose is to inform will always depend on how much the audience was able to process and understand the information presented. 

This information may include upcoming company changes, or announcements of new products, or status updates on a larger scale — the person in charge of the event may use slides, paper handouts, videos, and other supplementary materials to share the information. 

🔸 Example:

An all-hands event, during which the company’s CEO shares the announcements of new products the company will start working on in the following months.

How to successfully speak to inform

Informing your employees about anything is a bit more complex than simply relaying information. Here’s how to better communicate your information:

  • Know your audience — How you present your information will depend on what your audience already knows. For example, talking about a product feature update might be different with the internal product team than with marketing contractors. The latter will require more background information;
  • Back your speech with visuals or other supporting material — Make your presentation easy to follow by providing a supporting Prezi presentation, providing the audience with handouts containing the main points, sharing your screen in an online presentation to demonstrate as you speak, etc.;
  • Invite the audience to ask questions — Always leave time for questions, either at the end of the presentation or after each section.

Speaking to persuade

Speaking to persuade involves a speaker who is trying to convince or persuade the audience about a certain idea or product. 

The success of a speech whose purpose is to persuade will depend on whether the speaker was able to change the opinions of the audience in favor of the presented arguments and opinions.

🔸 Example:

A product manager speaking in front of the product’s marketing, sales, and development teams, about why a particular feature of the product should be radically updated.

How to successfully speak to persuade

The art of persuasion goes way beyond having convincing arguments. Here’s how to be more persuasive in your speech:

  • Present with confidenceResearch indicates that the power of persuasion lies not in what we deliver but how we deliver it. In other words, sounding confident can get you a long way in persuading the audience to change their opinion in your favor;
  • Provide real-life examples — Don’t get stuck in theory, as your audience will want to know how your idea relates to the real world. If the idea is already in action somewhere, share real-life stories of its success;
  • Be authentic — If you try to manipulate your audience, they will notice and discard your idea instantly, no matter how good it is. People respond to authenticity in others.

Speaking to actuate

Speaking to actuate involves a speaker who is trying to convince the audience to act on something. 

Whereas speaking to persuade may rely more on facts and figures, speakers who have the intent to get the audience to act will try to get the audience emotionally invested in a cause or the goals they are promoting. 

🔸 Example:

The CEO of a hospital system holding a motivational speech to the staff in the event of an upcoming large surge of patients, to encourage them to work together and help the said patients as best as they can.

How to successfully speak to actuate

Speaking to actuate is, in a way, the highest level of persuasive speech where you need to get the audience involved. Here are some tips to move the audience to action:

  • Get the audience involved — Actively involve the audience in the presentation by inviting them to share their stories, sentiments, opinions, and similar. This might inspire them to take initiative;
  • Show the audience how they are crucial in the matter — Why are they the ones who can make the change? Tell the audience why their involvement is essential for the matter. If they know how they can help and how their help could be beneficial, they are more likely to get involved;
  • Offer an incentive — The incentive for participating doesn’t have to be anything tangible. It can be as simple as showing them how much the company or community will appreciate their effort, how much respect they will earn, etc. People have a natural drive to recognition, which can be a powerful motivator.

Speaking to entertain

Speaking to entertain involves a speaker who is trying to entertain the audience during a particular event. 

Such speeches are often humorous or emotional and may involve a personal touch on the part of the speaker.

🔸 Example:

The dean of a college conducting a humorous, but heartfelt speech during the retirement party of an esteemed professor, in front of the professor’s colleagues and the rest of the college’s staff.

How to successfully speak to entertain

There are many techniques you can use to make entertaining speeches, but they also depend on the occasion. Here are some generally good ideas on how to speak to entertain:

  • Tell a story — Everyone loves a good story! Just make sure to get to the point relatively fast and not linger on irrelevant details;
  • Relate to the audience — If you talk about them, they are much more likely to listen to you actively. You can share an interesting fact about the audience’s profession, ask an audience member a question to drive a point, or tell them what they are about to gain from your speech;
  • Find unusual facts about the topic — Provide a fun fact or an unusual statistic about the topic. You can ask the audience to guess the answer to something, only to blow their minds away with how wildly unexpected the real answer is;
  • Test your jokes beforehand — If you’re not a master jokester, plan your jokes in advance and test them on some friends, for example.

Negotiations

According to the definition, negotiation is a process that involves two or more people who have different needs and different goals — they need to discuss an issue to find a solution acceptable for all parties involved in the negotiation. 

As is the case with most other business situations that require communication, negotiations may manifest as all 5 types of communication. 

The negotiation process in business usually involves the following five stages:

  1. Preparation, during which the parties involved:
    1. research information;
    2. analyze data;
    3. identify leverage;
    4. clarify the interests of the parties involved.
  2. Information exchange and validation, during which the parties involved:
    1. engage with the other side;
    2. share information;
    3. explore options.
  3. The bargain, during which the parties involved:
    1. create value;
    2. capture value;
    3. aim to find a solution that suits both parties.
  4. The conclusion, during which the parties involved:
    1. reach an agreement;
    2. agree on the next steps to take;
    3. thank the other party for their willingness to negotiate.
  5. The execution, during which the parties involved:
    1. implement the agreement;
    2. follow through on promises made.

In general, negotiations in a business setting fall under employee-to-employee negotiations, employee-to-employer negotiations, and employee-to-third party negotiations

But, we also recognize distributive, integrative, team, multiparty, one-shot, and repeated negotiations, which may involve employees, employers, and even third parties.

Here’s what each type of negotiation is about:

Employee-to-employee negotiations

Employee-to-employee negotiations involve discussions between employees, such as colleagues working together on a team project, who are looking to reach a mutually beneficial agreement.

🔸 Example:

A team of insurance agents in a financial service company discussing who should take on which account and client. All of the insurance agents make agreements about the accounts they’ll take over quickly, but two insurance agents in the team are keen on taking on a particular account and are negotiating further about who should be the one to take the account on in the end.

Tips for better employee-to-employee negotiations

Reaching an agreement in employee-to-employee negotiations can be a rocky road and lead to a conflict if not executed carefully. Here are some tips to help you out in these kinds of situations: 

  • Find out the other side’s motivation — No matter what you’re trying to negotiate, learning about the other person’s motives can help you understand why they want what they want and how you could find a solution that works for both;
  • Remain calm — It’s vital that you keep your emotions at bay. This will not only keep your head cool, but it will also help you keep the negotiations professional and not enter into a conflict with your co-worker;
  • Be respectful, but stand your ground — Don’t give up entirely on something that’s important to you just to appease the other person. Acknowledge their needs but respect yours as well and work to find a creative solution that would suit you both.

Employee-to-employer negotiations

Employee-to-employer negotiations involve discussions between employees and their employers, such as an employee and the CEO of their company, who are looking to reach a mutually beneficial agreement.

🔸 Example:

The representative of a marketing company is negotiating with a freelance design consultant about the price for his recurring consulting services.

Tips for better negotiations with your employer

Negotiations with your employer can be scary as you need to be extra careful not to say anything that could make you fall out of their favor. Here’s how to do it with tact:

  • Maintain a professional tone — Even if you feel wronged by the company and think you deserve better, you need to keep your temper at bay and show that you’re a professional who can negotiate a change with grace;
  • Help them see why you deserve what you’re asking for — Whether it’s a promotion, a pay raise, or anything else, you need to help the employer see why you should get it. Prepare well in advance, think about your strengths, and try to persuade them with facts. Avoid any type of emotional manipulation as it may damage your reputation and ruin your chances of succeeding;
  • Avoid ultimatums — Making an ultimatum (“Give me what I want, or else…”), no matter how politely you put it, is the opposite of negotiations. In fact, you rob your employer of a chance to negotiate and leave them with an either/or choice. No one responds well to ultimatums, and they are considered highly unprofessional and uncooperative.

Tips for better negotiations with your employees

No matter what you’re trying to negotiate with an employee, even if your decision is the final one, you should respect the employee’s point of view. Here’s how to negotiate anything with an employee:

  • Listen attentively — As an employer, you have the responsibility to take care of your employees and provide them with suitable work conditions. Give them a chance to explain themselves and what they want and pay close attention;
  • Be honest — If you need to tell them an unpleasant truth, be honest and don’t beat around the bush. If you can’t give them a pay raise due to an unfavorable financial situation at the moment, say so right away and try to find another solution;
  • Take time — If you need a moment to process their requests and see if they’re feasible, it’s better to take your time and get back to them on the matter than to make a rash decision. How you approach these situations will have a lasting effect on your reputation as an employer.

Employee-to-third party negotiations

Employee-to-third party negotiations involve discussions between the representatives of a company and third parties, such as an employee and a potential client, for the purpose of reaching a mutually beneficial agreement.

🔸 Example:

An operations manager negotiating a services agreement with a vendor booked to provide catering for the company’s Christmas party. 

Tips for better employee-to-third party negotiations

Internal negotiations are easier than those with external parties because everyone is aware of how things work within the organization and what they can expect, which can’t be said for external parties. Here’s how to navigate negotiations with third parties:

  • Compartmentalize — Going in with an all-or-nothing type of offer won’t get you far in negotiations. You need to show willingness for cooperation and a certain amount of flexibility. That’s why it’s better to negotiate on a section-by-section basis to find the best, tailor-made solution;
  • Set a deadline for the final decision — If you let the negotiations go on for too long and not find common ground in the end, you may miss out on other great opportunities in the meantime;
  • Prioritize — When negotiating complex deals, it’s likely that both parties will have to make concessions. However, it helps if you can make your priorities clear from the get-go and ask the same of the other party.

Distributive negotiations 

Distributive negotiations involve discussions between two parties about a single issue, such as the price of a service or product.

🔸 Example:

A sales specialist discussing the possibility of extending the free use of product services for a client company, beyond the usual 1-month free trial.

Tips for better distributive negotiations

According to one Harvard Law School blog post on distributive negotiation, here are some useful terms and strategies for achieving a great deal in this type of negotiation:

  • Define your BATNA — Best alternative to a negotiated agreement, or BATNA, is your plan B if you don’t reach your current goal, e.g., hire a different contractor if the current one’s price is too high;
  • Define your reservation point — This is the limit you’ll go to before turning to your BATNA, e.g., you won’t pay a contractor more than $1,000, and if they won’t lower the price, you turn to your plan B;
  • Find out the other party’s reservation point and BATNA — This step will help you understand if an agreement is possible;
  • Determine if there’s a ZOPA — ZOPA or zone of possible agreement is the space between yours and the other party’s reservation points. For example, if you won’t pay more than $1,000 and the contractor won’t accept anything less than $900, your ZOPA lies in between these two numbers.

Integrative negotiations

Integrative negotiations involve discussions between two parties about several issues. If the parties involved are interested in winning different arguments about different issues, a compromise that brings both parties what they want is possible, even likely.

🔸 Example:

A financial expert who’s just been given a job offer for a financial planning position negotiating with the HR manager of a bank, about her salary, benefits, and start date. The negotiations conclude with the financial expert getting more benefits than originally offered, to compensate for a slightly lower salary than she originally asked for, and with both parties easily agreeing on the start date.

Tips for better integrative negotiations

Integrative negotiations are not as win-or-lose as the distributive kind, so in a way, they are easier to handle. Here’s how to handle these kinds of negotiations successfully:

  • Break it down — This type of negotiation calls for breaking the deal down into smaller parts and negotiating each one separately. This way, you can both “win” parts of the negotiation;
  • Find common interests — Be open and encourage the other side to open up about their interests. This way, you may discover a surprise solution that would suit you both perfectly;
  • Think about the long-term — Maybe the agreement is not ideal for you now, but it would be beneficial to establish a relationship with the other party for the long-term benefit of the company. In this case, be future-oriented. For example, a marketing agency you want to hire is one of the best in the field, but they’re on the expensive side. So you settle an agreement now knowing you’ll reap the financial benefits of their work in the long run, which will pay off manifold.

Team negotiations

Team negotiations involve discussions among groups of people, who together forge two or more teams. 

Such teams usually consist of professionals who have different knowledge, experience, talents, and skills that are relevant to helping the team get what they want during the negotiations. 

The process of negotiation between teams usually includes the following elements:

  • specific roles for specific members of the teams;
  • clear negotiation strategies;
  • frequent breaks to discuss progress and work out possible disagreements between members of a team.

🔸 Example:

The legal representatives of two marketing companies that focus on products discussing the terms of a possible merger between the two companies.

Tips for better team negotiations

Team negotiations can get somewhat convoluted since everyone on all participating teams needs to get on the same page. Here are some tips to help you prepare for team negotiations:

  • Intra-team negotiations — Before you sit at the negotiation table with the other team or teams, you need to decide on your stance as a single unit. If a team member proposes the team’s terms only to be contradicted by another team member, the other parties won’t hesitate to exploit this discrepancy and make it work for them;
  • Assign roles — Each team member should have their own role in the negotiation process, and these roles should be clear to everyone before you start negotiating;
  • Prepare a strategy and stick to it — Before you start the negotiation process, establish a strategy you will use, make sure all the teammates understand it, and stick to it.

Multiparty negotiation

Multiparty negotiation involves discussions between three or more parties — the parties involved in multiparty negotiations may be part of a team or have their own, separate agendas. Multiparty negotiations have the potential of becoming too complex to manage with ease, but, the multitude of parties involved and issues discussed helps create more value out of the said discussion.

🔸 Example:

A team of six having a brainstorming session that churns out three distinct opinions about the possible name for a new product. 

The brainstorming session quickly turns into a negotiation among 3 subteams of two, each of which supports and has valid arguments for one of the proposed names. The subteam whose name is chosen will gain recognition in the company, especially if the product turns out to be a success. 

In the end, great value is achieved, as one name is chosen for the product, and the remaining two are placed on the back burner, for consideration during future brainstorming sessions for the names of products. 

Tips for better multiparty negotiations

Multiparty negotiations are even more complex than team negotiations since it can be difficult to reach an agreement that would benefit all. Here are some tips on how to better navigate them:

  • Consider joining a coalition — If there are too many parties involved, you’ll have a better chance of getting your voice heard if you join a coalition of groups that have similar interests;
  • Assign a facilitator — It might sound counterintuitive to involve yet another party in this complicated process, but it would be wise to get someone with no stakes in the negotiation to mediate the process and establish some kind of order;
  • Calculate your chances — Listen carefully to what others are aiming for, calculate your chances, and adjust your goals accordingly.

One-shot negotiations

One-shot negotiations involve discussions between parties that meet for negotiations once and are not expected to negotiate together in the future. 

Such negotiations may involve several meetings but are not expected to repeat in any way after an agreement has been reached.

🔸 Example:

The operations manager of a company looking for a new office space for the company’s ever-expanding number of employees. Once the price for a suitable space has been successfully negotiated, and the space purchased, the person who sold the space is not expected to further engage with the company representatives.

Tips for better one-shot negotiations

This type of negotiation is the riskiest since it’s a one-and-done affair where the involved parties aren’t hoping for a lasting relationship. Here’s how to conduct one-shot negotiations:

  • Do a background check — Before you even sit at the table with the other party, make sure they’re a reputable company or person who wouldn’t play tricks on you. Since they don’t need to get into your favor, they might resort to unethical behavior, such as taking the money and not delivering on their side of the deal;
  • Don’t be quick to give in — Stay firm in your decision until you figure out the extent of the other party’s willingness to compromise. What looks like a no-go at the beginning might turn out to be a much more flexible affair in the end;
  • Keep your reputation intact — This type of negotiation might be a one-shot deal, but you still want to be respectful of the other party and show your integrity and trustworthiness, as every action you take affects your overall reputation.

Repeated negotiations

Repeated negotiations involve discussions between parties that are expected to meet and negotiate on a repeat basis. Such parties are more likely to work harder on creating mutual trust and a pleasant, more cooperative atmosphere while negotiating, as they expect to communicate again in the future.

🔸 Example:

A company that mass-produces a plethora of new products every quarter, which requires the marketing team to gather frequently, brainstorm ideas, and negotiate about the best options for the new products’ names.

Tips for better repeated negotiations

In repeated negotiations, both parties are much more likely to play it fair as the opposite may result in the termination of the partnership or another type of arrangement between them. Here are some tips for successful repeated negotiations:

  • Establish a pattern — The negotiators who meet on a regular basis could benefit from a structured approach to negotiating. Knowing how the process of negotiation works can help everyone come prepared and get to an agreement more quickly;
  • Be considerate of the other party — Repeat negotiations indicate that the two parties collaborate often and rely on each other extensively, which is why it’s important to make a considerable effort to always find the solution that works for both sides;
  • Think about your shared interest before the negotiation — As you engage in repeated negotiations with the other party, you are probably aware of their goals and your shared interests. Factor in those interests before you start negotiating so that you can meet them halfway at the beginning and save everybody time.

Conflicts

According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, a conflict is a ”competitive or opposing action of incompatibles”. It is usually the result of opposing ideas, interests, personalities, communication styles, backgrounds, and other differences among teammates. 

Conflicts also may involve all 5 types of communication, to a varying degree — but, verbal conflicts are among the most common types, as conflicts tend to occur face-to-face. Moreover, a lack of active listening and understanding is often a reason conflicts arise. According to a study commissioned by the CPP Inc., a typical employee in the US alone spends 2.1 hours per week involved in various types of conflicts.

A report titled “Workplace Conflict and How Businesses Can Harness It to Thrive” further demonstrates how prevalent conflict is, considering that as many as:

  • 85% of employees deal with it on some level;
  • 29% of employees deal with it almost all the time.

Conflicts at the workplace usually come from interdependence in work, but may also be based on differences in work styles, leadership styles, professional or even personal backgrounds, and personalities.

Here’s what each type of conflict in a business setting is about:

Interdependence conflicts

Interdependence conflicts occur when a person needs to rely on a teammate for cooperation or input, to be able to continue or finish work — and the said teammate’s work and help are not up to par in terms of timeliness and quality.

🔸 Example:

A sales manager who is late with the monthly sales figures, which brings him into a verbal conflict with the company’s accountant, as this problem repeats on a monthly basis, and significantly slows down the accountant’s work progress.

How to resolve an interdependence conflict

It’s difficult to do your job when a co-worker you depend on is not doing their part, which is why you need to find a way to resolve the conflict with them as soon as possible using these tips:

  • Talk to your colleague openly and calmly — When the first rush of negative emotions wears off, try to calm down and talk to your colleague about their responsibilities and how their actions affect your work. A neutral tone and openness might be enough to resolve the conflict as they are less likely to get defensive if you’re not really attacking them and are showing willingness to listen;
  • Try to work out a solution together — Their side of the story might reveal the reason behind their actions, and you can come up with a solution together. For example, if they keep forgetting to send you progress reports you need because they’re busy with other responsibilities, you can agree to DM them on your team chat app to remind them when the report is due;
  • Ask for a re-delegation of tasks — If the above effort doesn’t work, talk to a higher-up or HR, explain the situation, and ask them to assign you a different teammate.

Conflicts due to differences in work styles

Conflicts that arise due to differences in work styles occur when people working together have different preferences about how they like to work and have disagreements about these work styles.

🔸 Example:

One half of a sales team is task-oriented and prefers to get everything done quickly. The other half of the sales team is people-oriented and prefers to discuss problems and solutions with everyone, at length. This leads to occasional conflicts that require further communication to be solved.

How to resolve a conflict due to differences in work styles

Relying on different work styles to get things done doesn’t have to be a stumbling block in your communication. Here’s how to resolve a conflict arising from differences in work styles:

  • Respect the differences — Not everyone thinks and does things like you, and you should accept this and try not to get frustrated if it doesn’t affect your work;
  • Make the differences work for you — Instead of finding these differences annoying, you might be able to use them to your mutual advantage. For example, if one HR person is more task-oriented and another one is more of a people person, the first one can take on more technical tasks, such as processing payroll and maintaining employee records, while the other one can perform onboarding meetings and similar communicative activities.

Conflicts due to differences in background

Conflicts that arise due to differences in people’s background are tied to differences in work and life experiences, knowledge, education, age, gender, culture, ethnicity, or even political preferences. Such differences in people’s backgrounds breed conflict only when people take unnecessary notice of them and make assumptions on people’s opinions, skills, and talent based on them.

🔸 Example:

A senior marketing manager immediately dismisses the idea of a junior member of the marketing department at a brainstorming meeting, due to her young age and assumed inexperience, which leads to a light argument between several meeting attendees.

How to resolve a conflict due to differences in background

Conflicts that arise due to differences in co-workers’ backgrounds can often be discriminatory and thus, result in some serious (even legal) consequences. To resolve this kind of conflict, try the following:

  • Check your bias — Has the person done something to annoy you, or do you hold prejudices toward a certain group of people they belong to? This is a serious question to ask yourself because if the latter is true, you should work on overcoming your biases and maybe even get professional help;
  • Alert HR — If you’re on the other side of this type of conflict and you feel discriminated against, you might want to involve HR who will know how to diffuse the situation and take any further steps in preventing it in the future.

Conflicts due to differences in leadership styles

Conflicts that arise due to differences in leadership styles occur when employees have to follow the instructions of several different leaders who have different styles, which may lead to confusion and frustration.

🔸 Example:

The customer support director has a more laid-back Laissez-Faire (“let do”) leadership style with the customer support team, while the CTO who frequently communicates with the members of the support team has a more controlling, Autocratic leadership style. 

As a result, the members of the support team come into conflict over whether they are asking for too much additional guidance and direction (from the point of view of the customer support director). Or, whether they are not following additional guidance and direction enough (from the point of view of the CTO).

How to resolve a conflict due to differences in leadership styles

As higher-ups who need to make sure their teams function at the optimum level, you need to get on the same page on how to lead them, regardless of your differences in leadership styles. Here’s how to deal with conflicts arising from these differences:

  • Take accountability — If a conflict has occurred due to leadership differences, as superiors, admit the mistake was yours, and agree on the way to proceed in the situation. This will diffuse the conflict as the responsibility will be lifted off of employees’ shoulders;
  • Work out a set of leadership principles and stick to them — No matter your differences, you need to get on the same page and align with the general company values and principles. This way, you can follow these principles whenever you’re confused as to what you should do in any situation;
  • Agree on and standardize procedures — If you standardize certain procedures, your differences in leadership styles won’t cause problems as all the higher-ups will communicate with employees in the same, prescribed way.

Conflicts due to personality differences

Conflicts that arise due to personality differences occur due to different dispositions among teammates, in terms of how they behave, how they think and react, what they like or dislike.

🔸 Example:

A senior manager in a bank has an argument with a bank clerk who is often arriving late to the office. From the point of view of the senior manager, the bank clerk is “lazy” and “irresponsible”. From the point of view of the bank clerk, the senior manager is constantly calling him out because he dislikes him. 

How to resolve a conflict due to personality differences

As we’re all different, personality clashes are bound to occur from time to time. However, learning how to communicate properly can help you resolve these conflicts with ease. Here are some tips to resolve personality-based conflicts:

  • Look at the problem from the other person’s perspective — In the example provided above, both people have an equally valid point of view. If they look at the problem from the perspective of the other person, they might find more understanding for each other;
  • Be honest — Being honest about what’s bothering you without letting emotions take over is a great starting point in resolving the conflict. It is also a great opportunity for you to question if the other person’s behavior truly affects you in a negative way or if you’re simply annoyed because they are not doing things your way;
  • Negotiate a compromise — All people are different, and every relationship requires constant negotiation of compromises in order to work.

Job interviews

According to the definition, a job interview is a conversation between an applicant for a job position and a representative of the employer (usually, the member(s) of the HR team). It is conducted to assess whether the said applicant is a suitable choice for the job position. 

These interviews can be structured or unstructured, depending on the people who helm them. 

Written communication is what usually starts the interviewing process — The HR specialist contacts the job candidates whose resumes seem suitable, via email. Such an email may include the details of an interview assignment and/or the suggested time and date for an interview meeting in-person. 

Once again, verbal communication is the dominant type throughout the later stages of the interview process — however, the HR specialist may learn a lot more about the candidates by analyzing their facial expressions, body posture, and gestures as they answer questions. Depending on the job position in question and whether it is tied to creatives, the interview assignments throughout the process may include visual elements, such as designs in need of redesigning.

Both the applicants and the company representatives also need to actively listen to each other. The job applicants need to do so to fully understand the questions and then answer them to the best of their abilities. The company representatives need to do so to comprehend and analyze the answers and draw conclusions on the suitability of the applicants. 

When it comes to the types of job interviews, we recognize phone, face-to-face, candidate group, breakfast or lunch, web conferencing, behavioral, and stress job interviews. Here, we’ll also talk about exit interviews, which are a special form of interviews conducted by the HR specialist.

Here’s what each type of job interview is about: 

Phone job interviews

Phone job interviews are another common first step in the interview process. They occur in case this first step is not conducted via email, and serve as a means to screen the candidate for suitability, before going deeper in the interview process. 

The HR specialist calls up the applicant and performs a quick inquiry about skills, experience, and other qualifications relevant to the position. 

The representative may also ask further questions, to determine whether the applicant in question is a good fit for the company culture in the first place. During the phone interview, the HR specialist and the applicant may agree on the date, time, and place for a more detailed, in-person meeting. 

🔸 Example:

An HR specialist having a quick phone interview with an applicant whose resume and cover letter stand out and highlight him as a suitable candidate for the vacant product manager job position. 

Tips for phone job interviews

What’s specific about phone job interviews is that you and the interviewer can’t see each other, so nonverbal communication is out of the picture, and you need to rely on your voice almost exclusively. Here’s how to be great in a phone interview:

  • Enunciate your words — Speak clearly and make sure each word can be understood. It’s much more difficult to understand what someone is saying if you can’t see their face and read their lips;
  • Assume a professional yet warm tone — You want to sound sharp but also friendly. It helps if you smile. Although the interviewer can’t see you, people can actually hear a smile in a person’s voice;
  • Listen attentively — Without any visual cues, you have to focus all your attention on listening to the interviewer carefully in order not to miss anything. It helps if you find a completely quiet spot and close the windows to shut off any outside noise.

Face-to-face job interviews

Face-to-face job interviews are the most common types of job interviews, and they usually take place after the phone interview.

During these interviews, the HR specialist asks the applicant more detailed questions about skills, experience, education, but also some questions that help the HR specialist determine what kind of person the applicant is, and whether they are a suitable fit for the company’s culture. 

The applicants who were able to communicate their relevant skills and expertise better may expect several rounds of face-to-face interviews, before being given a job offer. 

At some point of the interview process, or during the entire length of it, the HR specialist may be joined by the future direct superior of the person who will fill the job position. 

In companies that employ developers and similar technical professionals, it’s also custom to have a tech interview that involves challenges and assignments the applicant can expect as part of work duties if hired.

🔸 Example:

A candidate for the position of an English literature professor having a round of face-to-face interviews with an HR specialist and the school’s vice dean.

Tips for face-to-face job interviews

All the rules of phone etiquette apply to in-person interviews as well, so speak clearly in a professional manner and listen actively. Here are some additional tips for face-to-face interviews:

  • Use nonverbal cues to your advantage — While talking about your skills and experience, use your body language to communicate more subtle things, e.g., smile to show friendliness, maintain eye contact to indicate confidence and determination, don’t fidget and make it clear you feel comfortable. However, try not to overthink it as your behavior might appear rehearsed and unnatural;
  • Prepare in advance but be honest — Think about what they might ask you in the interview and how you could best answer their questions, but don’t offer phony answers that you think would please the interviewer. They get tons of generic answers from candidates, and what sets the good ones apart is their sincerity about their strengths and weaknesses;
  • Offer real-life examples — If the interviewer asks how you would solve a hypothetical problem, if possible, use an example of how you’ve successfully handled a similar situation before. These real-life examples have much more value than obvious generic answers.

Candidate group job interviews

Candidate group job interviews are job interviews that set two or more job applicants who are applying for the same position against each other, while the HR specialist and the rest of the interview team ask them relevant questions. 

Such interviews are meant to test the applicants’ professionalism, leadership skills, and ability to communicate with and function in a group.

🔸 Example:

The final round for the sales specialist position that includes a joint interview with two different candidates. Only one candidate will get the job, but the sales specialist in question will need to work in a sales team, so their ability to communicate with others is a vital prerequisite.

Tips for candidate group job interviews

A group interview is as much a test of your communication abilities as it’s an inquiry into your skills and experience. The key to acing this type of job interview is listening and adapting. Here are some tips on how to stand out in a group interview:

  • Be respectful of other candidates — Not cutting others off, listening carefully, showing support by nodding your head will all demonstrate your communication skills and professionalism;
  • Use others’ answers and build on them — Don’t use the time while others are talking to think about what you will say. Instead, listen carefully and think about how you can use their answer and build on it. This way, you will not only avoid repeating what others have already said, but you’ll demonstrate your attentiveness and wit in tailoring your answers on the spot;
  • Be conversational — Think of the interview as a conversation rather than a competition. This way, you will be able to relax and integrate into the conversation naturally instead of frantically trying to stand out by using every chance to cut in, even when you have nothing new to say.

Breakfast or lunch job interviews

Breakfast or lunch job interviews occur when the hiring manager or HR specialist wants to see how the job applicant behaves in a more informal setting. 

🔸 Example:

A hiring manager interviewing a job applicant for an assistant editor position at a newspaper over lunch.

Tips for breakfast or lunch interviews

Mealtime interviews are a more casual affair than any other kind of job interview. However, they are usually longer, and you need to think about more than just your answers to the typical interview questions. Here’s how to ace them:

  • Dress for an interview — Even if you’re meeting at McDonald’s, make sure to honor the dress code of your potential employer;
  • Be careful about what you order — Your food preferences are not your interviewer’s business, but thinking about what to order is a matter of practicality. If you order something messy, such as a huge sandwich with all the condiments available, you’ll have a hard time talking while handling your food;
  • Follow their lead — As a mealtime interview is a bit more casual, you won’t have to stick to the usual repertoire of questions. You can also ask some personal questions, e.g., the interviewer’s favorite football team or where they grew up. But it’s always best to play it safe by following the interviewer’s lead in terms of how casual the conversation should be.

Web conferencing job interviews

Web conferencing job interviews (also known as “teleconferencing” interviews) involve a job interview that is handled via video chat. 

This usually happens either because it would be more complicated for the job applicant to travel to the headquarters of the company (e.g. because the headquarters are across the country), or because web conferencing job interviews are standard practice in the said company. 

🔸 Example:

A candidate for a product management position is currently living abroad, so the job interview with the hiring manager is conducted via a video chat app.

Tips for web conferencing job interviews

Video job interviews can be similar to face-to-face ones, but you need to make sure you can handle the technology that mediates your meeting. Here are some tips to leave a good impression in a web conferencing interview:

  • Set up the technology beforehand — Make sure your equipment functions properly and you know how to use everything. If it’s your first time using the video conferencing app, try it before the interview to get familiar with its features;
  • Eliminate distractions — Make sure the room you’ll be sitting in is quiet and that no one will barge in. Inform your housemates or family members not to disturb you or make noise;
  • Show engagement through body language — In a video interview, you can keep eye contact, smile, and nod in approval to show engagement. Make sure not to move around too much and that your camera doesn’t shake with every movement you make.

Behavioral job interviews

Behavioral job interviews may occur anytime during the other types of interviews — instead of focusing on the job applicant’s answers, the person conducting the job interview is more focused on behavior patterns that emerge from the said answers.

🔸 Example:

An HR specialist asks the job applicant about the time when she had to handle an unexpected problem at her previous jobs. The HR specialist then analyzes how the job applicant handled the situation, based on her own words.

Tips for behavioral job interviews

Behavioral interviews are all about examples and real-life situations, so careful preparation is crucial for candidate success. Here are some tips on how to best prepare for this type of interview:

  • Read the job description carefully — A thorough reading of the job description can reveal a lot about the qualities the company is looking for in a candidate. They should direct your further preparation for the interview;
  • Review your previous experience — Think about your previous work or volunteer experience and try to find example situations in it that show that you have the previously established qualities the company wants in a candidate;
  • Practice giving concise answers — Consider the questions they might ask you, such as “Tell us about a challenging situation at work you managed to overcome.” Practice giving concise and straightforward answers, without going into too much detail. Make sure to cover the more uncomfortable ones too, such as “Tell us about a mistake you made. How did you deal with it?”.

Stress job interviews

Stress job interviews are performed to test how the job applicant acts in stressful, unexpected, or high-pressure situations. 

The interviewer may achieve this effect by asking questions in quick succession and encouraging the interviewee to think fast.

🔸 Example:

An HR manager in healthcare asking the applicant for a surgeon position a series of questions related to possible surgery situations in quick succession, to see whether the applicant would be a good fit for the often stressful emergency surgeries in real life.

Tips for stress job interviews

Stress job interviews can be intimidating, but if you come prepared and are confident in your abilities, it can be a fun challenge. Here are some tips on how to handle a stress interview:

  • Research the company — Come thoroughly prepared by researching the company, their culture, values, and policies so that you can align your answers with that;
  • Keep control of yourself — If the pace of questioning becomes frantic, that doesn’t mean you need to offer rapid-fire answers. You can take a moment to reflect and calmly answer the question without putting additional pressure on yourself by speeding up;
  • Remember not to take it personally — Depending on the nature of the interview, the interviewer might be rude, unpleasant, or harsh, e.g., by simulating a situation with a difficult customer. It’s essential to remember that this is not a reflection of what they think about you but a mere technique to assess your stress response.

Exit interviews

Whereas the purpose of a job interview is to find a new hire, the purpose of an exit interview is to say goodbye to an employee who is leaving the company. 

Such interviews are usually conducted by a member of the HR team, to better understand why the employee is leaving, and what conclusions the company can draw from this — i.e. what can be improved, changed, or should remain intact in the workings of a company.

🔸 Example:

A bank manager conducting an exit interview with an insurance agent who has decided to leave the said bank after 5 years of work. 

Tips for exit interviews

You may think that an exit interview is irrelevant since you’re leaving anyway, but that’s far from the truth. You don’t want to burn your bridges. Here are some tips on how to handle an exit interview:

  • Leave emotions at the door — Even if the reason you’re leaving is making you furious, keep the sentiment for when you vent to your friends. You want to remain professional in the eyes of the company and leave on good terms;
  • Be honest — Not showing emotions doesn’t mean you should lie. On the contrary, the company wants to know your genuine reasons for leaving so that they can fix the problems and reduce employee turnover;
  • Prepare in advance — You don’t want to improvise with this type of interview because you might end up unwittingly offending someone. Think about all the unpleasant things you need to say and how you can best communicate them without sounding rude or unprofessional.

Conclusion

The business environment is riddled with different types of communication situations. On a daily basis, an average professional may:

  • attend a daily stand-up meeting;
  • partake in unplanned, casual conversations with colleagues during the lunch break;
  • have a formal 1-on-1 conversation with a manager over the performance of a colleague;
  • negotiate for a preferred idea during a brainstorming session;
  • listen to a presentation about the company’s achievements in the previous year;
  • receive evaluation feedback from a superior;
  • have conflicts with teammates based on different work styles;
  • helm a job interview together with an HR specialist.

The listed situations all have a particular purpose and outcome and require communication with other people. Understanding what may be expected of you during these communication situations is vital for proper teamwork and progress in work.  

References:

  • Conflict. (n.d.). In Merriam-Webster dictionary. Retrieved February 11, 2021, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/conflict
  • Conversation. (n.d.). In Cambridge dictionary. Retrieved February 11, 2021, from https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/conversation
  • Feedback. (n.d.). In Merriam-Webster dictionary. Retrieved February 11, 2021, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/feedback
  • Public speaking. (n.d.). In Merriam-Webster dictionary. Retrieved February 11, 2021, from  https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/public%20speaking
  • Queensland Government. (2020). Negotiating successfully. Retrieved February 11, 2021, from https://www.business.qld.gov.au/running-business/marketing-sales/managing-relationships/negotiating
  • Stone, D. & Heen, S. (2014). Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well. New York, NY: Penguin Group.

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