How to Effectively Communicate at Work (Even If You Hate Your Coworker's Opinion)

How to Better Communicate in the Office
The 2016 Presidential election (and current political climate) is an almost inescapable topic these days—it's likely flooding your Facebook feed and infiltrating your Sunday brunch date (keep those mimosas flowing, please!).
Whether you're a fan of politics or not, there is a necessary missing element amongst all the chaos that we could all benefit from: the ability to communicate with others clearly and constructively, especially those with whom we might disagree.

Progress is not possible unless we value others—and respect their viewpoints.

The workplace holds a strong parallel by means of another type of politics—office politics, that is. If you're lucky, your job has introduced you to people that you now call friends instead of “just coworkers.” But there’s more than likely one person (if not a handful) in the office that you just can't seem to see eye-to-eye with—maybe even some you simply can’t stand. This becomes a dilemma when you have to work together on projects or otherwise collaborate.
Progress is not possible unless we value others—and respect their viewpoints.
Open, honest communication is a necessary means to bring all team members together and ensure the direction you're headed is intentional and beneficial to your business. Speaking up—AKA eloquently stating or debating your opinions in a professional arena—can be a challenge.

Maybe you're comfortable voicing your opinion, and know that no matter your viewpoint, your take will be heard and respected. For many though, it can be difficult to elicit open communication from their team for a number of reasons, ranging from simple shyness to the fear of retaliation/losing their jobs.

As a manager, how do you speak up while simultaneously toeing a respectful, professional line? And here’s an even trickier one: how do you inspire your team to return the favor and willingly give their feedback?

Here are some guidelines to help prevent any tongue-tied flubs and keep you on the professional fast-track.

Get organized: Establish a meeting schedule that works for your team

Depending on the structure of your company or team, you may meet frequently—or not at all. The key is to find a happy medium that’s respectful of everyone's time. Review current projects and timelines, and determine how often it makes sense for your team to meet. It’s important and beneficial to schedule this face-to-face time. If possible, send an itemized agenda beforehand, and always leave plenty of time for open discussion. If you're dealing with an exceptionally large group, consider having smaller breakout meetings to address individual team needs.

Suggest team building exercises to bridge trust amongst your coworkers

“Team building” may elicit immediate eye rolls from some, but there’s something to be said for getting to know your coworkers better. Others are unlikely to share their thoughts with those they don’t know very well or deem untrustworthy. Stepping out of the day-to-day levels the playing field and helps people loosen up. Need some suggestions to get you going?  Check out this list of 32 different fun team building exercises.

Use clear and concise language to communicate

Establish some ground rules for communicating, and be sure to ask for your team's feedback on the process. Always speak calmly, clearly, and with respect to all team members. Assure them that it is a safe space to speak on any issues, but also communicate that you're available and accessible to speak privately outside of meetings as well.

What do you want to know from your team? What do they need to know from you? If you have a specific problem or dilemma, figure out what you need to know and ask the questions to develop the process needed to solve it.

Ask your coworkers what's working—and what's not

Asking your team what really matters to them—and showing that you are invested in their success—is an important element of building trust in a professional relationship. Take an interest in your employees and acknowledge a job well done when deserved.

Stop and listen—really listen

Be intentional in your conversations. Listen with the hope of learning something new in the process. Question your assumptions, and challenge others to do the same. Remain open to the idea that you may be incorrect or misinformed in a previously held thought or opinion, and ask questions to understand someone else's viewpoint more clearly.

Ask for help, and keep the team involved

If a process isn’t working, ask your team members for suggestions on how to improve. Assign positions to different people and encourage their involvement. Not only will you establish better practices, but you will also provide the opportunity for the team to work together cohesively and know that their input matters.

Encourage—and reward—open dialogue

Rewarding feedback can simply range from saying "thank you" publicly to offering the opportunity to collaborate on a new project with a different team. If possible, consider having other rewards as part of a larger team-building effort—whether that’s monetary or a free day of PTO. However, the simple act of acknowledging someone for their time and feedback is often reward enough.

Pulling it all together

Effective leaders encourage and practice intentional communication, where the key is to remain balanced and objective. Differing opinions can present challenges, but they are excellent opportunities to grow personally and professionally. Being proactive instead of reactive in your communication style can mean a world of difference in how workplace scenarios may play out.

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You may be a rock star at your job, but getting along with others is a pretty important requirement, too.

And, after you successfully put these tips into practice, check out this TED Talk from Robb Willer on how to have better political conversations which translates well to workplace issues.


What are your tips for opening up communication at work?