Effective Communication in the Workplace

Modified: 7th Aug 2018
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Communication is an important aspect of any work place. It can consist of verbal and nonverbal messages. Effective communication, especially in the field of computer technology, is essential to work place productivity. Communication is considered to be effective when both parties involved have the same understanding of the message being sent.

Effective Communication doesn’t have to be a long, drawn out affair or an elaborate meeting. It can be short and simple; precise and to the point. It can be a manager walking down sending a short email to one of his assistants to request an update on the necessary protocols for a new system. Another example of effective communication could be a coworker reminding another coworker of a mandatory section meeting at 2:00 P.M. later the same afternoon. Neither of these exchanges took a long time, but they are direct and to the point. This is what makes for effective communication. (McIntosh, 2008)

Verbal messages are one form of communication. Verbal messages consist of words spoken between two or more people. They can take place face to face or via the telephone or other electronic medium like video conferencing. Interpersonal communication makes up the majority of your every-day communication. This includes conversations with your family, friends, and coworkers. (Wood, 2014)

One thing to remain aware of in your verbal messages is the clarity and ambiguity. A lot of problems in communication stem from simple misunderstandings. To avoid this, we must make a conscious effort to refrain from using ambiguous language in our conversations.

Focusing on clarity and ambiguity reminds me of a time when I was in the military. In 1979, I was stationed in a remote location in Greece. I often worked with Greek personnel to accomplish daily jobs. During this time, I became very familiar with the saying “always tomorrow.” I found out early during my stay in Greece that the Greek work for tomorrow is pronounced, “av-iee-o”. When requests were made of our Greek counterparts, their answer would always be “av-iee-o”, meaning tomorrow. When the next day came, the work was expected to be completed. When the work was not received, a follow up would be made and the answer again was simply, tomorrow. I later found out that when requests were made, a specific time and date needed to be stipulated because “tomorrow” from my Greek counterparts equated to whenever they were finished. I truly found out the meaning of “always tomorrow” the hard way. After learning this, every request was given with an absolute time and date for expected completion. This scenario is not subject to just my experiences in the military. Misunderstandings like this can be avoided by utilizing as much clarity in your communication as possible.

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Other issues with clarity can stem from using slang and jargon. Using slang can be a slippery slope. While it may be perfectly fine for use with your friends and family in a less formal setting, it can leave your bosses and clientele with a negative impression of your competence. It can also be confusing if not everyone understands your slang.

Jargon, on the other hand is more technical is sort of short-hand and can be quite useful on the job. Like slang, however, it can be confusing to people outside of your company or industry. So, it is not advisable to use jargon too much in formal communications, especially communications with clients or people from other industries. Keeping your communication clear, but concise can help avoid giving ambiguous statements that leads to confusion and misunderstandings. (Flood, 2008)

Words can be an effective tool in moving people’s emotions. They can be used to motivate individuals to work harder. Conversely, they can evoke feelings of anger and provoke a defensive stance from the recipient. For this reason, another characteristic of verbal messages to avoid is using inflammatory language. “Inflammatory language is one of the most common causes of conflict escalation.” (Askin, 2003)

The fact that words can evoke such negative feelings is enough of a reason to try to avoid the use of inflammatory language. It is obvious you should avoid words that promote negative feelings of race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, and more. Trigger words are so inflammatory that they can instantly invoke a severe emotional response. It is important to realize how inflammatory they can be. What might seem to be simple and innocent to you could in fact be a trigger word to someone else. You should first accept that you have trigger words of your own and learn to be aware of them. Then you can start to be more aware of the fact that others will have a reaction to what you say, be it negative or positive.

What you say is not the only thing that matters in communication. You must also be aware of how you say it. Nonverbal communication includes the tone you use, your facial expressions, gestures, body language and more to help convey your messages and give them a deeper meaning. (Wood, 2014) It is all the ways you express yourself without actually using words.

Nonverbal messages are extremely important, especially in work place communication. The way you say the words you use to communicate, your body language and gestures, even your posture can all contradict what you are actually saying. Some research has shown that people tend to believe the nonverbal cues displayed when someone’s verbal and nonverbal communication are not in sync. Friedrich Nietzsche once stated, “All credibility, all good conscience, all evidence of truth come only from the senses.” (Smith, 2013) This can be applied to the importance of nonverbal communication.

The overall morale of an office can have a great impact on its productivity. Nonverbal messages can have a significant impact on the morale. For instance, an employee gives a presentation to their manager. Throughout the presentation, the employee sees the manager yawning and fidgeting a lot. One thing this employee might think is that the manager is not interested in the presentation at all. This can cause the employee to lose some of their “zeal” for working there and lower their morale. With lowered morale, the employee’s production begins to slip over time. (Ray, n.d.)

One of the “problems” with nonverbal behavior is that it can be somewhat ambiguous. It is easy to interpret someone’s body language the wrong way. For instance, in the example above, the employee could have mistaken the manager’s yawning as showing their lack of interest in the topic. However, the yawning could just as easily been caused by a lack of sleep the night before. The constant fidgeting could have been due to drinking too much coffee before the meeting to compensate for a lack of sleep. (Adler, 2014)

Even though nonverbal communication can be easily misinterpreted, it is still important to be careful of the images you convey. Even though what you say through verbal communication is still very important, how you say it can determine how much your audience retains.

Dustin York is an assistant professor at Maryville University. He conducted an experiment to determine how much of a factor nonverbal communication really played in the retention of information from presentations. During his experiment, he used 4 university classes totaling 80 students. Each of the classes had a guest lecturer giving the exact lecture. The wording and information was all the same, but each guess was instructed to vary their nonverbal cues throughout the lecture. Two lectures were instructed to use effective nonverbal communication in the presentations, while the other two were instructed to use poor nonverbal communication. The students were all given the exact same test after the lectures. York found that the students attending the lectures with effective nonverbal communication scored approximately 30% higher than students of the other lectures. (York, 2013)

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Effective communication requires both verbal and nonverbal communication to work together. It has been determined that nonverbal communication works with verbal communication to either reiterate the message, contradict the message, emphasize the message, or complement the message. You should be careful not to use nonverbal cues to contradict the message too much or you can appear to be untrustworthy. (Wood, 2014)

Effective communication is a vital key to any successful workplace. In the computer technology field, coworkers rely on each other to relay accurate information. In dealing with clients, it is important to be able to communicate with them effectively. You must remember to speak clear and concise messages. This will allow you to improve your clarity and reduce any ambiguities. You must also be careful of what you say. Stay away from slang, jargon and inflammatory words, especially trigger words so that your audience can remain receptive to your message.

Just as important, if not more, be cognizant of the nonverbal messages that you send. While your verbal messages are important, you must always be aware of the effect that your nonverbal cues add to them. Combining the effective use of both verbal and nonverbal communication can lead to increased productivity in the workplace.


McIntosh, Perry, et al. Interpersonal Communication Skills In The Workplace. [New York?]: American Management Association, 2008. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost). Web. 11 July 2014.

Akin, Jennifer. “Escalation-Limiting Language.” . Beyond Intractability, 1 Sept. 2003. Web. 10 July 2014. <http://www.beyondintractability.org/essay/escalation-limiting-language>.

Wood, Layne. “Verbal Versus Nonverbal Communciation.” . Live Strong, 12 Jan. 2014. Web. 10 July 2014. <http://www.livestrong.com/article/157893-verbal-communication-vs-nonverbal-communication/>.

Ray, Linda. “Nonverbal Behavior in the Work Place.” . Demand Media, n.d. Web. 9 July 2014. <http://everydaylife.globalpost.com/nonverbal-behavior-workplace-2851.html>.

Smith, Jacquelyn. “10 Nonverbal Cues That Convey Confidence At Work.” . Forbes, 11 Mar. 2013. Web. 9 July 2014. <http://www.forbes.com/sites/jacquelynsmith/2013/03/11/10-nonverbal-cues-that-convey-confidence-at-work/>.

York, Dustin. “5 Keys to Great Nonverbal Communication.” . Ragan’s PR Daily, 31 Dec. 2013. Web. 11 July 2014. http://prdaily.com/Main/Articles/5_keys_to_great_nonverbal_communication_15623.aspx.

Flood, Timothy E.. MBA fundamentals: business writing. New York: Kaplan Pub., 2008.

Adler, Ronald B. Communicating at Work – 11th Edition. : McGraw-Hill Education, 2014.


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