Effective Workplace Communication

Written by Tarnya Mangano – Recruitment Consultant (Legal Support) Brisbane, QLD

Simple, but sometimes we all forget the art of effective communication, especially in our workplaces.  Of course, we all think we have great communication skills, and every job requires them – but what does it really mean?  And what does it mean to have these skills when it comes to your job?

Communication is about more than just exchanging information.  It’s about understanding the emotion and intentions behind the information.  Effective communication is also a two-way street.  It’s not only how you convey a message so that it is received and understood by someone in exactly the way you intended, it’s also how you listen to gain the full meaning of what’s being said, to make the other person feel heard and understood.  Communication, whether verbal, written or visual can be expressed in positive (assertive) or negative (aggressive, passive) ways.  People need to take feedback from how others interpret or perceive how they are communicating.  Sometimes we can be perceived as aggressive even though it is not intended.  It is all about how the other person has “heard” your communication.

Communication is the key to all successful projects and a lack of adequate communication can prove to be the downfall of many, which would otherwise be successful.  Effective communication can certainly help you develop your connections with others and improve teamwork, decision making, and problem solving.  It enables you to communicate even negative or difficult messages without creating conflict or destroying trust.  Effective communication in the workplace can also increase work productivity and output which leads to the success of the business.

Good communication skills are some of the simplest, most essential and most useful tools for success you can possess.  In fact, they are probably the number one ability sought by employers. 

Some key skills we all need to be reminded of to improve our communication;

  • Become an engaged listener,
  • Pay attention to nonverbal signals,
  • Keep stress in check,
  • Empathise and encourage,
  • Assert yourself.

Regardless of what field you’re in and despite the apparent hollowness of the term, honing your ‘communication skills’ will pay you back many times over.  If you get it right, you’re guaranteed to have a much smoother path through life and your career.

17 Rules of Email Etiquette in the Office

Email is used more and more as a means of communication. Back in the last century – in the 1970’s and 1980’s, lawyers could get away with telling clients that a draft of a document was in the mail. Now, if a document is drafted it can be sent

There are lots of unwritten ‘rules’ around the use of email and if your firm does not have a policy around the use of email, it should draft one post haste.

If you are a junior lawyer, remember that if you are providing advice to a client via email you should always get your supervising partner to check and authorise it to be sent. In the same way that letters to clients are usually signed by a partner, emails containing legal advice should not leave your computer without being checked by someone with authority to sign mail.

Think of your emails as another form of communication that is sent on the firm letterhead. Everything you write will have the firm’s name on it. Remember the affidavit test – every piece of correspondence you write could end up as an annexure to an affidavit, read by a judge and on the public record. Even if you are sending an email internally, think of the content being placed on the firm noticeboard before you hit ‘send’ to judge whether or not it is a good idea.

In terms of etiquette, follow these simple tips:

  • Make sure the subject matter is relevant and accurately reflects the content of the email. It is easy to reply to an earlier email sent to you about a completely different subject. Change the subject line or write the email in a completely new one.
  • Always start with a greeting – ‘Dear x’ or ‘Dear Ms Y’. Depending on your relationship with the client the greeting can be less formal, such as ‘good morning’ but never start a work email with the content only. Again, respect and consideration are paramount.
  • Make sure you have spell check turned on and that you have spelled names correctly.
  • Punctuation is still important but please never use multiple exclamation marks or question marks.
  • Remember your manners. Please and thank you are still important in emails.
  • Use the same rules of writing as you would if sending a formal letter – good sentence structure, paragraphs, bullet points, headings.
  • Double check that the recipient is the correct one. With email systems your computer remembers names you frequently use. If you have two clients with the first name ‘Susan’ check that you have sent it to the right person.
  • Keep emails brief and to the point.
  • Never assume intent or tone from an email.
  • If you refer to an attachment make sure it is attached before you send it.
  • Think before hitting ‘reply all’ to an email to many people – does everyone on the email really need to be read your response?
  • Never use all capitals – this is considered to be shouting.
  • Use the CC field for those who really are receiving the email for information only. If you want that person to respond include them in the ‘To’ field. You can also send the ‘sent’ email to another person saying ‘just for your information’ rather than the BCC field.
  • Remember if you use ‘BCC’ that person may not realise that they have been blind copied and may ‘reply all’, alerting the original recipient to the fact that this person was blind copied.
  • Be careful when forwarding emails – some emails are lengthy and have many emails below them that may contain sensitive information. When in doubt, don’t.
  • Never forward jokes on work emails.
  • If you feel angry about an email you have received don’t respond straight away. Think carefully about your response.

Email is fast and easy to use. But don’t let that fact diminish the importance of what you have to say or how you say it.