Interpersonal Communication Skills


Employees often show concern about the quality and quantity of communication at work. Some claim that management gives only lip service to open communication, doing little to really communicate with them.

Others contend their organizations believe that posting notices on bulletin boards and sending out memos provide adequate communication. Still others say they receive vague instructions that are difficult to follow.

Ineffective communication often results in poor cooperation and coordination, lower productivity, undercurrents of tension, gossip and rumours, as well as increased turnover and absenteeism. Experience shows there are many ways managers can improve internal communication. Here are some things they should do:

• Understand that communication is a two-way street. It involves giving information and getting feedback from employees. It is not finished when information is given.

• Put more emphasis on face-to-face communication with employees. Do not rely mainly on bulletin boards, memos and other written communication.

• Ask themselves, each time they give an instruction, if the message is clear. Most vagueness is caused by failing to be specific. Example: Do not just tell an employee to “show more interest” in his or her work. If an employee spends too much time chatting with others, be specific about it.

• View information as “service to” employees and not “power over” them.

• Listen to employees; show respect for them when they speak. They will feel part of the team and will tend to be more dedicated and productive. One way: Ask questions to show interest and clarify points.

• Do not just talk open door policy. Practice it by walking around and talking to employees. Allow people to disagree and to come up with new ideas.

• Conduct one-on-one meetings. Ask each employee to tell the manager how the manager can help the employee to do a better job. Then share those things employees can do to help the manager do a better job.

• Prepare publications frequently. Emphasize current issues that employees care about; do not substitute quarterly “prettier” publications for substantive, up-to-date ones.

• Concentrate on building credibility with employees. Managers who lack credibility and fail to create a climate of trust and openness are not believed-no matter how hard they try to communicate.


When dealing with people, be ready to react to the actions of different personalities. Some examples:

• Dealing with the aggressor, who is intimidating, hostile and loves to threaten.
What to do: Listen to everything the person has to say. Avoid arguments and be formal, calling the person by name. Be concise and clear with your reactions.

• Dealing with the underminer, who takes pride in criticism and is sarcastic and devious.
What to do: Focus on the issues and don’t acknowledge sarcasm. Do not overreact.

• Dealing with the unresponsive person, who is difficult to talk to and never reveals his or her ideas.
What to do: Ask open-ended questions and learn to be silent-waiting for the person to say something. Be patient and friendly.

• Dealing with the egotist, who knows it all and feels and acts superior.
What to do: Make sure you know the facts. Agree when possible and ask questions and listen. Disagree only when you know you’re right.

Source: Business Marketing Reference
Manual, by Tom Lapham, 160 Farmington
Ave., Bristol, CT 06010.

Communication isn’t over
when you finish delivering
your message

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