How employees can improve communication in a team

Managers are the ones that need to ensure their teams are well-directed towards common goals. But, it’s up to the members of the said teams to ensure that the communication they have amongst themselves and their managers leads to efficient teamwork. After all, efficient teamwork and efficient communication are interlinked — teams need to communicate efficiently to thrive, and efficient communicators have the ability to build efficient teams. 

In this article, we’ll talk about how employees can improve communication with managers and teammates, through 15 select strategies you can start implementing right now.

How do employees view team communication?

Employees tend to have high expectations from communication within their teams — and, their efforts in team communication are focused on achieving personal and team growth, as well as better collaboration:

Employees believe teamwork is important

Various research shows that employees find great value in teamwork. 

For starters, research on “Communication in the workplace” by the Queens University of Charlotte shows that about 75% of employees view teamwork and collaboration as important.

According to one McKinsey report, as much as 97% of employees and executives believe that the lack of alignment within a team has an impact on the outcome of a project or task. 

Moreover, one Gusto report shows that 37% of employees place “working with a great team” at the top of their list of reasons for staying in a company. 

Employees see the value in establishing team connections

Establishing a connection with teammates is another principal goal for employees, especially when they engage in communication with others.

Namely, according to one Gallup report, teams that rank in the top 20 in terms of connectedness see a 66% increase in employee wellness. 

Moreover, people working in such connected teams are 59% less likely to leave the company. 

And, as a direct contrast to this data, research by Celayix shows that 27% of employees who leave a company within their first year feel disconnected from the organization.

Employees value a strong sense of community

Working in a company that strives towards creating a strong sense of community is another prerequisite for higher employee satisfaction — and, a strong sense of community is often built upon various forms of communication.

According to a report by Gusto, as much as 54% of employees state that great co-workers, celebrating milestones, and a clear common mission keep them at the company — sometimes, such a strong sense of community keeps them in companies even longer that is in their best interests, objectively.

Employees value honesty

Honesty is another element employees view as important for efficient communication in general.

Namely, according to ProofHub, as much as 99.1% of people prefer working in a workplace where people value honesty. And yet, less than half of these people state that their companies actually discuss issues truthfully. Moreover, according to one Accountemps survey, 33% of employees blame the lack of open and honest communication in the workplace for the negative impact on their morale.

Employees find technology useful

The right technology is an important prerequisite for efficient communication and collaboration — no matter whether employees are working in remote, in-house, or hybrid teams.

Namely, according to one Dimensional research survey commissioned by Alfresco, as much as 83% of professionals depend on technology to collaborate, and 82% believe there would be a negative impact if these technologies were lost. 

Employees value tools that help them socialize

Employees like to socialize while collaborating — and, they prefer to do so while using tools meant to facilitate socialization.

According to a survey by Bit, 49% of Millenials, 40% of Gen X, and 31% of Baby Boomers respond positively to the idea of using social tools to collaborate.

How to improve team communication when you’re an employee

Improving team communication when you’re an employee may seem like a process that is beyond your power  — but, the contribution of every teammate counts. In line with that, here are 15 great strategies that will help you improve how you communicate with teammates and managers on a daily basis. 

Share and follow updates

According to a report by Gallup, as much as 70% of employees don’t believe their co-workers are committed to producing quality work.

But, is this really the case? 

Well, unless you communicate with your teammates, you won’t be able to know if this is true. In line with that, always ensure that you and your teammates are on the same page when it comes to progress with tasks, the newest company information, and priorities. 

In order to achieve this, you’ll need to make the effort to talk to everyone, review priorities together, and attend meetings.

Talk to everyone

You don’t have to have a heart-to-heart with every member of your team, every day. But, you should still make the effort to say “hello” when you walk into the office, and “goodbye” when it’s time to leave. Also, don’t hold back about initiating or participating in small talk during break time — the more you communicate with your teammates on trivial matters, the easier it will be to talk with them about work issues. In turn, talking about work issues when they arise, will help everyone stay in the loop.

Review priorities together

At the beginning of the workweek, you and your teammates should agree on your priorities for the future period. 

These may be priority tasks individuals will work on alone. 

Or, they may be priority tasks you’ll all work on in a group. 

Either way, you should all be clear on what everyone’s priorities are. This way, you’ll avoid duplicate work that comes when two people do the same task without being aware of it. Moreover, you’ll also avoid focusing too much attention on tasks that are not your immediate priorities.

Attend meetings

Yes, meetings are often viewed in a negative light — after all, surveys show that 67% of professionals believe that too many meetings prevent them from performing their best. But, meetings CAN be productive, if done right — i.e., if they are time-bound, have relevant, clear agendas, and include only the necessary attendees. 

Such meetings can help teammates:

  • build stronger relationships;
  • discuss complex ideas and processes;
  • solve problems faster and better;
  • make decisions faster and better;
  • be more productive;
  • feel included and respected;
  • brainstorm ideas;
  • provide and receive feedback.

Of course, it’s up to your managers to ensure your team meetings bring the above-listed benefits. On your end, you should make the effort to attend these meetings and:

  • share regular updates about your work on tasks;
  • listen to other people’s updates about their work on tasks;
  • ask relevant questions;
  • answer questions that are in your competency;
  • discuss immediate problems;
  • help identify priorities.

🎓 To learn more about the role of managers in establishing effective team communication, as well as learn how to improve team communication when you are a manager, read our comprehensive guide on the subject: How managers can improve team communication.

Work on key communication skills

To communicate effectively, you’ll need to nurture the right communication skills on a daily basis. So, make the effort to be clear, to listen to others, to be direct, and to hone your written communication skills. Moreover, don’t use jargon and absolute language — you’ll decrease the chances for misunderstandings.

Be clear

At any time, be clear on what you’re trying to convey — what do you want the other person to understand? If you’re unsure whether the other person has understood your message, ask for repetition — the other person should be able to correctly interpret and repeat what you’ve just said, if you were clear, to begin with.

Listen to others

To communicate effectively, you’ll need to establish a two-way communication process. To establish a two-way communication process, apart from conveying your thoughts, you’ll also need to actively listen to others. Pay attention to what others are saying, and don’t let your thoughts about what you want to say in reply distract you from the message you are receiving. Pay attention to the body language of others, to get additional meaning from what they are saying. Look at the speaker, nod to what they are saying to signal that you understand, and reflect on what you just heard by paraphrasing it.

Be direct

At any time, if you have any questions, concerns, ideas, or new information, present them to your teammates directly. Watch your tone and other non-verbal cues, to avoid having your directness be interpreted as rudeness.

Hone your writing skills

According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), as much as 74% of employers look for candidates who possess strong written communication skills. In line with that, you should pay special attention to honing this type of communication skills. Ensure that the emails, direct messages, and memos you write are clear, concise, professional, correct in terms of grammar and punctuation, as well as written in the active voice as often as possible.

Avoid jargon

According to the Internal Association of Business Communication, only 21% of communicators manage to keep their language simple and jargon-free. Unfortunately, not everyone is familiar with specific jargon language — moreover, jargon words and phrases that carry one meaning according to you, may carry a different meaning to the person you are communicating with. Some jargon words and phrases may even carry negative connotations, without you even realizing it. All this may lead to miscommunication and misunderstandings.

So, refrain from using jargon words and phrases, especially if they don’t have a universal meaning. Instead, use analogies to describe something unfamiliar to describe something familiar. Translate jargon into simpler, more universal words if needed.

Avoid absolute language

Avoid using absolute words such as “always”, “never”, “no one”, and “everyone”. These absolute words can be interpreted as “allowing no exceptions” — despite “always”, “never”, “no one”, and “everyone” being statistically unlikely qualifiers in real life, no matter the subject you are discussing. As a result of using such absolute words, you lower your credibility as a speaker and diminish the value of the claims and arguments you make, even when they are valid. 

Instead of “always”, it’s better you say:

  • “usually”;
  • “routinely”;
  • “with few exceptions”.

Instead of “no one”, it’s better you say:

  • “rarely”;
  • “uncommonly”;
  • “in rare circumstances”.

Instead of “everyone”, it’s better you say:

  • “very few”;
  • “a small number of people”.

Instead of “everyone”, it’s best you say:

  • “most people”;
  • “the general population”;
  • “a majority of people”.

Contribute with ideas and solutions

Proper teamwork usually requires teammates to participate in a lot of decision-making and problem-solving activities. So, whenever there is a situation where the team is expected to make a decision or solve a problem, any teammate should feel free to contribute with relevant ideas and solutions.

Before pitching your ideas to the team, ensure that you understand the problem or decision, drop your biases, consider all available data, consider possible outcomes, and prepare what you need in advance.

Aim to understand the problem or decision

Before looking for an appropriate solution or idea, ensure you have clearly defined and understood the problem or decision. Aim to understand how important this problem or decision is to a task or project. Can work on a task or project continue if the team doesn’t solve the problem? What kind of decision would work best?

Drop your biases

Make sure you don’t jump to conclusions — the most obvious solution may not be the best one, and a certain bias may be stopping you from exploring other options. Identify your biases, and get out of your comfort zone to look for solutions — test different approaches and problem-solving techniques until you find the suitable one for this particular problem.

Consider the available data

When looking for a solution to a problem, chances are that you’ve already encountered at least a similar problem. Use the knowledge you gained while solving that problem to solve this one. If you need additional data to solve a problem, ensure you talk to the right people about it.

Consider possible outcomes

Every solution has several hypothetical outcomes — make sure you consider them before you pitch your idea to the team.  

First, identify the worst-case scenario outcome for your solution: 

  • If your idea fails, will the project or task be able to recover — or is the solution too risky? 
  • What is the likelihood for the worst-case scenario? 
  • What tweaks to the original idea could help you avoid the worst-case scenario?

Once you’ve identified the worst-case scenario, identify the best-case scenario outcome for your solution:

  • If your idea succeeds, what kind of reward will your team reap? 
  • What is the likelihood for the best-case scenario? 
  • What improvements to the original idea do you need to make to achieve this outcome?

In the end, identify the most likely case scenario outcome for your solution. The likelihood for this case scenario is already high — you’ll just need to consider how favorable this case scenario is for your team and the project you are working on.

Prepare what you need in advance

Whatever you need to set your idea into motion, prepare it in advance — no matter whether it’s specific teammates you need to talk with, the equipment you need to use, or simply your courage to speak up. Tailor your presentation. Show the numbers and data. Show the possible outcomes. Highlight the best possible outcome, and pitch clear ideas for avoiding the worst-case scenario.

Document everything

According to Kiite’s Sales Productivity Survey from 2018, sales representatives alone waste about 52% of their time looking for the information they need. The same problem befalls other industries, such as the software development industry — namely, one IDC white paper that covered 1,200 IT professionals and information workers found they spend as much as 4.5 hours per week simply looking for documents. This problem can be fixed if teammates make the effort to thoroughly document everything, including verbal agreements — but, also ensure that documentation is properly organized and that the right information is easy to find.

Make documentation thorough

Save your emails and direct messages. Take notes in meetings. If you’re a team of medical professionals, ensure the medical records of your patients are complete, for better diagnosis. If you’re a sales team, ensure all processes, products, and services are thoroughly described and accessible to all teammates, for faster work. If you’re a customer support team, ensure you archive the customer support tickets you solve, for future reference.

Put verbal conversations in written form

When you have an in-person talk with a teammate about a problem or idea, always put what you’ve ultimately agreed on in written form. For example, you can write an email or send a direct message to your teammate — this way, both of you will have the agreement in written form, for future reference.

Properly organize documentation

Documenting everything of importance won’t get you far — unless you make the effort to properly organize all information you document.

When it comes to official policies, procedures, workflows, or anything else your team has agreed to implement, you should make the conscious effort to document this information in a company wiki, for example.

When it comes to messages, your team chat app will organize them automatically.

For example, the direct messages you’ve sent to a colleague will be organized under your colleague’s name. Moreover, the announcements and discussions you have about a particular topic will be available in the appropriately named public or private channel you’ve previously created. Ideally, you should be able to search for the information you need at any time.

An example of direct messages, public, and private channels for a product team in Pumble chat app

Ask for feedback

According to a Zenger and Folkman survey, presented by the Harvard Business Review, as much as 69% of respondents report they would work harder if their work was better recognized. Moreover, as much as 92% of respondents agree with the assertion that “Negative (redirecting) feedback, if delivered appropriately, is effective at improving performance.”  In line with that, if you want to receive both positive and negative feedback, you should actively seek it out.

To do so, you’ll need to ask the right people for feedback, ask Yes/No questions, ask open-ended questions, and ensure you ask at the right time

Ask the right people for feedback

To get the right feedback, you’ll need to ask the right people. So, turn to your teammates and managers — after all, they are your closest collaborators, and are in the best position to rate and comment on your work.

Ask Yes/No questions

For a quick turnaround, ask questions people will be able to answer with a “Yes” or a “No”. If you ask several people direct questions about your work, and they all reply with a “Yes” or a “No” on a particular matter, you’ll be certain that you can trust the feedback.

🔸 Examples:

  • Do you think I need to improve in X? 
  • Have I shown improvements in Y?
  • Should I pursue this idea?

Ask open-ended questions

Open-ended questions require more time to answer — so, you may want to save them for your immediate superior or closest colleague. Such questions can help you get more data on a personal trait or skill you need to rectify or expand on.

🔸 Examples:

  • What are the best ways I can contribute to the team goals?
  • What are my weaknesses and strengths, in your opinion?
  • What part of my working style concerns you the most?
  • What part of my communication style concerns you the most?

Ask at the right time

Your managers and peers may not always have the time to give you feedback. In line with that, if your company employs an open-door policy, you can send a request to your manager and arrange a 1-to-1 meeting to discuss your performance. Moreover, you can also send a direct message to your colleague, to ask whether they’d be willing to provide you with some feedback — and when?

Provide feedback

Although it may seem that feedback is a communication situation where the manager gives feedback to employees, feedback can, and also should, go the other way around. According to one 2020 Engagement & Retention Report, as much as 90% of workers state they are more likely to stay at companies that accept and act on feedback — and yet, only 12% of managers solicit feedback about their management styles. In line with that, members of a team should make a conscious effort to provide feedback to their managers.

To provide feedback to your managers properly, make sure you ask first, are proactive about providing feedback, offer positive feedback, offer constructive feedback, phrase the feedback as a question, and say if you’re having difficulties with something.

Ask first

Before you dive into providing feedback, ask your manager whether it would be OK if you were to provide some feedback. This is a common courtesy, and will help the manager mentally prepare for potentially negative feedback — plus, it will help lower the chances that the manager will be defensive about what you say.

Be proactive about providing feedback

If you have specific feedback to provide, do it directly. For example, if you believe that having more check-ins would help you stay on track with work, tell that to the manager directly. Also,  make sure you highlight the benefits your performance, and, in extension, the team’s performance, would have from such regular check-ins.

Offer positive feedback

If you get recognition from your manager on a regular basis, return the favor when appropriate. Namely, Achievers’ 2020 Culture Report shows that 53% of senior leaders and 42% of senior managers want more recognition in the workplace. So, take the time and effort to thank your managers publicly, for all the support and recognition they’ve given you. This will not only boost their morale, but also help managers understand that you are motivated by the recognition they attach to your work — which will, in turn, motivate them to continue providing you with recognition when appropriate. 

Offer constructive feedback

When providing feedback to your manager, don’t describe what you would do if you were the boss. Also, don’t assume that you know everything about a particular situation. Instead, disclose the feedback from your own perspective.

Phrase the feedback as a question

If there is a specific process you think might need improvement, propose the tactics for improvement yourself. For example, if you believe that the length of stand-up meetings is too long, frame your concerns as a question for the manager: “Do you think that the stand-up meetings take too long?”

Your manager will likely have arguments for or against the current length of time spent in stand-up meetings, and you’ll then be able to follow up with your own opinions.

Say if you’re having difficulties

Do you feel overwhelmed with your current workload? Do you feel stressed out? Do you feel like you won’t have enough time to finish a task? Be honest about it to the manager. Chances are that your manager is simply unaware of the fact that you are overworked and struggling to keep up — telling them this can help them understand that they may need to manage their expectations differently.

Adjust your communication style

According to the definition, a communication style refers to the way you communicate in different situations, or with different people. In line with that, we differentiate between predominantly aggressive, submissive, manipulative, passive-aggressive, or assertive communicators. 

But, we also differentiate between communicators who are controlling (task-oriented) or supportive (people-oriented) on one hand, and direct or indirect on the other hand. 

When it comes to the way you prefer to communicate information, we recognize functional, intuitive, personal, and analytical communicators.

Your personality type also plays a role in your communication style. Namely, whether you are introverted or extroverted, sensing or intuitive, thinking or feeling, judging or perceiving, also influences how you’ll communicate with others. 

In line with the above-listed differences in communication styles, there are bound to be some communication challenges within the team. 

For example, people who are predominantly manipulative may trigger frustration, anger, and annoyance in the people they are communicating with. 

Moreover, people who are predominantly submissive may trigger guilt and resentfulness in the people they are communicating with. 

Indirect communicators are likely to hesitate to contribute in meetings, which means that direct communicators will take charge — no matter whether their ideas are really the best. 

Analytical communicators, who predominantly focus on data while conversing, may clash with personal communicators, who predominantly focus on emotions while conversing.

In the end, different personality types may also clash when communicating — for example, sensing people prefer tangible information, while intuitive people prefer to take in information by observing the bigger picture. In line with that, in discussions, they’ll provide and seek out different types of information.

Because of these differences, it’s important that you properly understand your own communication style. It’s also important that you understand the communication styles of your teammates and managers. Once you do, you’ll be better able to communicate with them, because you’ll understand their expectations better, and be able to answer them and contribute to conversations in an assertive manner — one that has you stand up for your own right, but also respect the rights of others.

🎓 To learn more about the above-mentioned communication styles and the effect they can have on team communication, check out our comprehensive guide to the types of communication styles.

Offer help 

Proper teamwork is defined by individuals working together to contribute to a whole. But, sometimes, certain individuals may struggle to fully carry out their part, for whatever reason — and may need help. 

Helping someone can be beneficial both for the person receiving help and the person providing it. It tends to:

  • create a sense of belonging;
  • give you a meaningful purpose;
  • increase collaboration efficiency; 
  • improve your professional relationships with the people you help out.

But, providing help can also be a double-edged sword — especially if not handled properly. 

For example, the helper may receive less gratitude and recognition for helping out, than expected. 

Moreover, the person being helped may suffer a drop in self-esteem, due to seemingly needing help with work in the first place. 

Sometimes, your offer of help may also be rejected, despite your best intentions, which may discourage you from offering again.

In order to avoid these pitfalls, you’ll need to subtly make it clear you’re available to help out, learn how to take “No, thank you” as an answer, and focus your offer on someone’s lack of time (not lack of abilities)

Subtly make it clear you’re available to help out

Offering your help directly may make you come off too strong — especially to people who neither want nor need your help at the moment. So, instead of offering your help directly, make it clear that you are available to help out when needed — this way, you’ll encourage others to seek you out, instead of actively trying to guess who needs help, and when.

Learn how to take “No, thank you” as an answer

If you offer help to someone and they reject you with a “No, thank you”, don’t insist on it — even if it is a manager you’re trying to impress with your skills and knowledge on a subject. Simply, explain that you will be available if they change their mind.

Focus your offer on someone’s lack of time, not lack of abilities

When you offer people your help, you risk making them think that you are insinuating that they are somehow incapable of doing their share of the work. In order to avoid this, focus your offer on someone’s lack of time, not their lack of abilities. Make it clear that you want to help a colleague save more time for other activities, by taking off some of their workload.  

Ask for help

So, you’ve understood the importance of offering help to your teammates and managers. But, it’s also important that you actively ask for help when you need it. For example, you may be unsure of what you are supposed to do, and how. Or, you may have said “yes” to too many tasks, and now you’re struggling to keep up with your workload. Perhaps you’ve made a mistake with something. Or, an aspect of a project or a task has you confused and you need additional expertise.

In order to properly ask for help, you’ll need to tailor your plea to the situation, ask privately, demonstrate that you’ve tried to solve the problem, be specific, and stay engaged with the task.

Tailor your plea to the situation

If you’re unsure about what you are supposed to do, you can say: 

  • “Hey, I  think I’m a bit confused about my role in project X. Do you have time to talk about it and maybe answer some questions, just to check whether I’ve understood everything correctly?”

If you are swamped with work, you can say:

  • “Hey, I hate the feeling like I’m trying to transfer my work to other people, but I currently feel like I’m buried under my work. Do you perhaps have some extra time to help me with project Y? I would really appreciate your insight on this matter.”

If you’ve made a mistake, you can say:

  • “Hey, I’m afraid I’ve missed a crucial point in Task A, which means that I now need Task B done to fix Task A. I’m sorry for the extra work, but I would really appreciate your help with this.”

If you’re confused about a task and need additional expertise on it, you can say:

  • “Hey, I’m currently working on project Z. I’d love some additional expertise about a particular area of this project. Do you have time to talk about it and maybe share some ideas? I think your insights would really help.”

Ask privately

If you’re in dire need of assistance, you can avoid making your problem seem like a bigger deal than it is by asking for help privately. So, pick one person or a group of people who you think would be best to help you out. After you’ve successfully finished your task, don’t forget to provide public praise to the people who’ve helped you do it.

Demonstrate you’ve tried to solve the problem

Before asking for help, make sure you’ve tried to solve a problem or overcome a challenge on your own. If you still fail, ask someone else for help, and explain and demonstrate that you’ve already tried to find a solution. This way, the other person will understand that you already tried your best, but simply need additional support — and will be more likely to help you.

Be specific

What do you need help with? Why is the task you need help with important for the project? Why do you need help from this particular person or group of people? What specific value can their help bring to the task? When do you need the problem solved?

Make sure you explain all this to the person or group of people you’re asking for help.

Stay engaged with the task

If someone has agreed to help you with a task, don’t leave them to work on it alone. Provide assistance where needed, and answer any additional questions they may have. Also, ask questions that may help you solve the problem on your own, or even help a third party with it, in the future. 

Be accountable

According to thought leader, Anne Loehr, as much as 84% of workers describe themselves as “trying, but failing”, or simply “avoiding” accountability — even when they know how to fix a problem. But, accountability is an important factor in successful team communication:

  • Accountability helps you take ownership of your mistakes and the outcomes of your actions — and refrain from blaming others.
  • Accountability helps you commit to a list of priorities — and say “No” to an endless string of new tasks that would side-track you from your commitments.
  • Accountability helps you establish a balance between your non-verbal language and what you are thinking — in meetings, instead of nodding your head and smiling even when you don’t understand something, you’ll stay true to your commitments and ask what you don’t understand.

In order to be accountable with your work, you’ll need to declare your commitments publicly and make public to-do lists.

Declare commitments publicly

Your goals, due dates, and tasks are your commitments — to encourage yourself to stick to your commitments, make them public.

This way, you’ll gain more motivation to pursue them — because you will want to avoid disappointing the expectations of your peers and managers.

Make public to-do lists

To increase your accountability, make it clear what you are accountable for. Create clear to-do lists. Review them to identify your priorities — i.e. the order in which you’ll work on them.

Then, make your to-do list public. 

For example, you can print out your to-do list (or, write it down on a piece of paper) and attach it to the front door of your office, or at the entrance to your cubicle. If you work in an open office, simply place the to-do list on an easily visible spot.

If you work in a remote team or simply prefer virtual to-do lists, you can create them online and share them in your team’s chat app, by sending an attachment or a link to your team 

A to-do list, sent as an attachment via Pumble chat app

Be respectful

According to a Quality of Life@Work study, workers who feel that their leaders treat them with respect are:

  • 55% more engaged;
  • 58% more focused;
  • 63% more satisfied at work;
  • 110% more likely to stay with a company. 

On the other hand, workers who don’t feel respected tend to perform worse at work —  according to a poll that included 800 managers and employees across 17 industries, workers who don’t feel respected on particular occasions tend to react negatively:

  • a share of 80% admitted they lose work time worrying about the incident;
  • a share of 63% admitted they lose work time avoiding the offender;
  • a share of 48% admitted they intentionally decrease their work effort;
  • a share of 47% admitted they intentionally decrease the time spent at work;
  • a share of 38% admitted they intentionally decrease the quality of their work.

In line with these numbers, it’s clear that establishing respect at work should be a priority. Now, individuals may primarily focus on the respect they receive (or don’t receive) from their managers. But, the respect you receive from and give to your teammates is often equally important — especially considering the larger amount of time you usually spend directly working with your teammates, compared to the time you usually spend directly working with your manager. So, always make the effort to actively respect the opinions and contributions of your peers.

To do so, you’ll need to treat others how you want to be treated, refrain from complaining behind someone’s back, think before you speak, and avoid negative gossip.

Treat others how you want to be treated

Do you want others to be kind, considerate, and polite to you? Then be kind, considerate, and polite to others. After all, kindness, politeness, and consideration are the foundation of respect. So, make sure you maintain eye contact with the people you are conversing with. Actively listen to what they have to say, and refrain from interrupting them mid-sentence, even if you think you have something important to say. Ask meaningful questions that move the conversation forward. Offer help to others when needed, and thank them when they help you. Treat your teammates with equal respect, despite your perceived differences.

Refrain from complaining behind someone’s back

Whenever you have something to say to your colleagues or managers, either say it to them directly, or don’t say it at all. For example, if you have something to say about the work ethic of your colleague Jessica who’s always late with her tasks and makes you late with your tasks as a result, don’t say it to Lexie, your other colleague — instead, talk about it with Jessica directly. 

Think before you speak

Before you pitch in on a subject, think about what you want to say and how you should say it. Get your thoughts in order, understand what you want to say, formulate it in your head first, and then say it. 

Learn how to disagree with someone

Disagreements in a team are normal. But, it’s how you show your disagreement that counts – especially when it comes to showing respect. 

If you disagree with someone’s opinion because it’s different than yours, don’t undermine their contribution and show disdain for their point of view. 

Don’t patronize people whose opinions and ideas you find somehow inferior to yours. 

Don’t make disagreements personal — i.e., don’t disagree with someone just because you don’t like them. 

To be respectful towards the people you disagree with, validate their opinion. Be cordial, yet candid — directly say what you disagree with and why by using facts, experience, or intuition. Ensure everyone knows you are speaking only for yourself, and not for others.

Avoid negative gossip

According to a survey by Office Pulse, workplace gossip is a regular occurrence — as much as 72% of professionals admit to gossiping about workplace matters, for an average of 40 minutes per week. 

But, not all gossip is the same — especially in terms of showing or deserving respect.

Complimenting someone’s work on a project, or sharing your positive experience about working with a newcomer to the team on your previous job is the positive type of gossip. This type of gossip can make a work environment happier and healthier.

But, nothing good ever comes from negative gossip — and, respect is the first thing to go. 

So, before you comment on someone’s potentially embarrassing personal information, or make fun of them in any way, remember that the person you are talking about is an actual human being with actual feelings — feelings that are likely to be needlessly hurt if they find out what you’ve been saying. 

Apart from causing distress for the person being gossiped about, your gossip sessions can also cause distress to you — when you are confronted about them. 

Not only is negative gossip a sign of disrespect towards the person you are gossiping about, but it’s also an open invitation for others to start disrespecting you — because you are wasting work time being unkind to someone behind their back, for your own enjoyment. 

So, to show respect and be respected in return, make an effort to avoid indulging in negative gossip about your colleagues and managers.

Learn how to act in meetings

Previously, we’ve already discussed why it’s important you attend meetings your managers organize. But, even if your managers have made the effort to put a specific limit to the time you’ll spend in meetings, invited only the necessary people, and defined clear agendas, the productivity of these meetings will ultimately still depend on the attendees — so, you should also learn how to properly act in meetings. To achieve this, you’ll need to understand the purpose of the meeting you’re attending, follow common meeting etiquette, and contribute with meaningful information

Understand the purpose of the meeting you’re attending

Do you know what you can expect from the meeting you’re about to attend? Do you know what will be expected of you at the said meeting?

In gist — do you understand the purpose of the meeting you’re about to attend?

  • Is it to share/hear new information? 

Informational meetings revolve around the manager providing new information to the team. During the meeting, you may be expected to share your own progress and insights on the matters discussed. Alternatively, you may only be expected to take in the new information. 

  • Is it to consult on an important matter?

Consulting meetings usually revolve around a manager or specific teammate seeking input from various people about a specific topic. The topic may revolve around project strategies, tactics, and ideas. If you’re invited to such meetings, you will be expected to provide ideas, insights, and perspectives.

  • Is it to solve a specific problem?

Problem-solving meetings revolve around finding solutions to a particular problem or challenge. If you’re invited to such meetings, you will be expected to provide ideas and opinions for the best ways to solve the problem or overcome a challenge.

Follow common meeting etiquette

Just like any business situation that involves a lot of communication, meetings also have a specific etiquette you should follow. 

Make sure you show up on time for the meeting.

Don’t look at your phone. 

Have a positive attitude. 

Make sure you stay mentally present at the meeting. 

Listen to what others have to say — have an open mind if their opinions are different than yours.

Ask questions when you don’t understand something. 

Answer questions when you propose an idea. 

If you disagree with an opinion or idea, focus your attention on “attacking” the problematic area of opinion or idea, and not the person who proposed it. 

If you’ve brought snacks or drinks to the meeting, make sure you clean after yourself.

Contribute with meaningful information

When in a meeting, don’t talk just to talk. It’s the responsibility of all attendees to keep the meeting on point and productive — so, try not to side-track the group with matters unrelated to the meeting agenda. Stick to the topic, and keep your comments, brief, clear, direct, and neutral.

Get to know each other

To be able to communicate effectively about work matters, it would be ideal if you were to make the effort to get to know your colleagues and managers. To do so, you can initiate small talk, have lunch together, and participate in office events

Initiate small talk

Next time when you’re making coffee or tea in the office kitchen together with a group of colleagues, ask them some questions. 

What hobbies do they have? 

What sports do they play? 

What movies and TV shows do they like? 

Offer your own hobbies, movies, sport preferences, and TV shows in return — perhaps you’ll find a common ground with someone you can bond about in the future.

For example, next time a new episode of your favorite TV show starts streaming, invite your colleagues who watch the same TV show to make coffee or tea together and discuss the latest plot points.

If you and your team operate remotely, you can still initiate this small talk virtually. If you use a chat app, create public channels for certain fun topics, such as #pets, #digitaldrawing #NBA, #star_wars, #movies, #music, #tv_shows, and invite the interested parties to contribute and have some fun during break time.

An example of a public channel dedicated to movie recommendations in Pumble chat app

Have lunch together

Lunch is another great opportunity to socialize with the team. So, propose that your team orders food from your favorite restaurant and have lunch together. Alternatively, you can make it a habit to have lunch together with different teammates on different days — if lunch with the entire team at the same time is difficult to arrange.

Partake in company events

Team-building activities, birthdays, work anniversaries, and quick foosball/table tennis sessions are a great opportunity to socialize and bond with colleagues — and learn more about them in a more relaxed atmosphere.

So, next time your company organizes a team-building event, your colleague brings in a cake to celebrate her birthday, or someone invites you to a quick game of table tennis, join in on the fun.

Once again, if you work in a remote team, you’ll need to turn to a virtual form of company events. For example, you’ll still be able to participate in office game sessions — create a public channel called #game_night, #gaming_friday, #counter_strike, #world_of_warcraft, invite people to it, and organize game sessions. 

An example of a public channel dedicated to company game nights in Pumble chat app

Make the most of your communication tools

Your communication tools are what enables you to communicate with your team in the first place. So, make sure you participate in your company’s official communication tools and aim to make active improvements in the way your team uses communication channels. To do so, you’ll need to make the effort to use your communication tools regularly and fill out profiles in apps.

Use your communication tools regularly

If your team has the official policy to use a chat app such as Pumble for urgent messages and general correspondence, follow this policy.

If your company defines official policies in company wikis, look for clarifications about your company’s sick leave policy on the appropriate wiki page.

If your team uses a project management app to track the progress you make with tasks, make sure you mark your tasks as complete as soon as you finish them.

If your company uses an employee feedback system to gather employee feedback every Friday afternoon, answer the poll questions you receive.

Whatever communication tools your company prescribes, make sure you use them regularly — and, as prescribed.

Fill out profiles in apps

Profiles in communication tools are there for a reason — so, make sure you fill them out as requested:

  • Add your email addresses and your phone number — to help teammates and managers reach you when there’s an emergency and you’re not replying to pings;
  • Add your profile picture — to help remote teammates who’ve never met you in person connect a face with the name, and recognize who you are during online meetings or in-person meetups;
  • State your job title — to help people understand what type of tasks they can contact you for.  

Adapt your approach to fit specific teams and teammates

How your teammates behave and communicate may also depend on the type of industry you are all working in. For example, Engineering teams, Lawyer teams, Education teams, Accounting teams, Marketing teams, HR teams, Healthcare teams, Customer Support teams, Insurance teams, Designer teams, and Finance teams, are all likely to differ in the way they are expected to communicate.

Engineering, designer, marketing, and customer support teams are more likely to operate remotely, or in hybrid teams. In line with that, they are more likely to turn to a larger number of virtual communication solutions.

Healthcare teams are expected to communicate a lot with patients. Education teams are expected to communicate a lot with students. 

Finance, lawyer, and insurance teams are expected to communicate a lot with clients.

In line with that, each type of teams should work on establishing clear plans for external and internal communication, in line with the specific needs of their industries.

Wrapping up

Managers may be the foundation of effective team communication — after all, they do define the communication processes meant to lead the team to success. But, ultimately, it’s the question of whether the employees are a skilled group of communicators that determines how well they will implement the said communication processes — and actually reach success.

Employees who are skilled communicators listen to others attentively. 

They share updates, and aim to stay on the same page as their teammates. 

They are clear, direct, but respectful while contributing in conversations. 

They aim to understand problems and decisions. 

They commit to documentation. 

They ask for and provide feedback. 

They aim to adjust their communication styles to the people they are communicating with.

 They offer and accept help. 

They aim to be accountable. 

They follow meeting etiquette. 

They aim to get to know their colleagues. 

They aim to make the most out of the communication tools they use. 

By actively working on acquiring and improving the above-listed skills, individual employees help others, but also themselves, build a team culture people will want to be a part of and contribute to. 

References

  • Alfresco & Dimensional research. (2015). Collaboration Trends and Technology: a Survey of Knowledge Workers. Retrieved 09.04.2021, from https://www.alfresco.com/sites/www.alfresco.com/files/dimesional-research-collab-survey-findings-report-082415.pdf
  • Durinski, T. (2020). 2020 Engagement & Retention Report: Why up to 64% of Employees May Leave their Jobs in 2020. Achievers. Retrieved 09.04.2021, from https://www.achievers.com/resources/white-papers/2020-engagement-retention-report/
  • Dohmann, E. (2012). How do communication and personal accountability relate to one another? HCPro. Retrieved 09.04.2021, from http://www.hcpro.com/HOM-282053-5627/How-do-communication-and-personal-accountability-relate-to-one-another.html
  • Johnson Hess, A. (2019). 67% of workers say spending too much time in meetings distracts them from doing their job. CNBC. Retrieved 09.04.2021, from https://www.cnbc.com/2019/11/17/67percent-of-workers-say-spending-too-much-time-in-meetings-distracts-them.html

Marija Kojic is a researcher and writer specialized in team communication and collaboration. She enjoys helping people discover meaningful and effective ways to communicate and collaborate smarter. Marija has written many blog posts for Clockify, but she has also appeared in G2 Crowd Learning Hub, The Good Men Project, and Pick the Brain, among other places.