Communication for a Business is something that seems to be lacking in our society. Daily, communication is used to save lives, drive change, and mend relationships. It’s a huge deal in the business world, especially in HR. In HR, communication can save a business from legal issues. Dictionary.com defines communication as: “the imparting or interchange of thoughts, opinions, or information by speech, writing, or signs” and “a document or message imparting news, views, information, etc.” In biology, communication means an “activity by one organism that changes or has the potential to change the behavior of other organisms.” Communication is powerful. The antonyms for communication, found on Thesaurus.com, are ignorance, silence, concealment, secret, and suppression. Without communication for your business, what would our society be like? It’s hard to even imagine. So when the need arises, “say what you need to say,” best quoted by John Mayer in his famous song.
“Say” by John Mayer https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZPLmPziTaho
There are so many benefits to communication. In the article, “Benefits of Effective Communication in Workplace,” there are multiple factors that communication affects, including diversity, team building, and employee morale. In promoting diversity, employees should go through communication training that helps employees from all different cultural and social backgrounds learn how to communicate in the workplace. Next, in team building, communication builds trust, “employees work together harmoniously,” there is higher productivity, and communication makes it easier to steer away from a hostile work environment. Lastly, the article focuses on employee morale. Employees are wanting their managers to communicate with them. This leads to a “healthy work environment” and a failure to communicate causes confusion.
Think on this case, EEOC vs. Brown & Brown of Florida, Inc., reported on by SHRM.org. A woman had made it through rounds of interviews, had been offered a job, and then called to ask about maternity benefits. Within thirty minutes of the phone conversation, the woman was emailed to tell her she no longer had the job because they needed someone “long-term.” This is blatant stereotyping and discrimination. The person who emailed her assumed that she couldn’t stay for a long time in the position just because she was pregnant or they did not want a new hire that would need an extended time off within the year. She was obviously qualified because she was offered the position. In turn, the EEOC filed a lawsuit against her company and the company had to pay $100,000 in damages. This is only one case, focusing on one condition. There are various ways of miscommunication regarding diversity and discrimination. This discrimination is mostly focused on disparate treatment, which is being treated differently because of who you are, basically, (race, color, religion, sex, where you’re born, age, or disability status), (Human Resource Management, Chapter 3, page 119). Other issues include sexual harassment, affirmative action, reverse discrimination, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and safety in the workplace (OSHA). In communication, there’s always the delivery of the message, but there is also the perception. If a statement is perceived in an offensive manner, just one message could be detrimental to the business.
I have a personal example that I experienced a few weeks ago. It wasn’t exactly a legal issue, but was an interpersonal mistake, and may have lost a future client for the business I work for. I was calling businesses to ask for owners’ names, so I could send out marketing letters with the names of the owners. I was going to send the letters to the business address, but I just wanted to make sure they got into the right hands. I called one business, and when someone answered, I asked, “What is your owner’s name?” The person who answered asked why I needed the information. I then explained who I was and that I was planning on sending marketing letters out. This person then responded that he/she was not comfortable with giving the information out. I should have lead with who I was, and explained why I needed the information, before just asking first what I needed. I should’ve communicated in a different way with a different style to prevent this interpersonal mistake. Since I didn’t get the owner’s name, I was not able to send a letter to that business. I learned my lesson, and began communicating in different ways to explain who I was, what I needed, why I needed it, and then request the information in a very polite manner.
Communication cannot be taken lightly. If certain information isn’t shared, legal troubles or just interpersonal issues could arise. A great communicator needs to be a strong change agent, because all communication provides some sort of change. In the article, “Making Good Change Agents: Attitude, Knowledge, Skills,” by Amy Tan and Uwe Kauffman found on the I Six Sigma website, highlights three attributes that makes good change agents. The first attribute is attitude. This culminates into persistence, ambition, enthusiasm, and motivation. A great communicator who is also a great change agent will be motivated to give a message, use a certain level of enthusiasm dependent on the message, and persist when there is adversity. While this article mostly focuses on change management in projects, the lessons learned can be converted to communication. If a person underestimates their message or underestimates their delivery, the message won’t be sent in the right way. The article states “Change leaders must make their own judgments.” While I believe that this is an empowering statement, I also believe these leaders can benefit from the advice of higher-ups or people who have been in their shoes. Next, great communicators should be knowledgeable of the situation. They should weigh every option and practice before delivering. The senders of the message should be credible. If they aren’t trusted or display some of the negative characteristics that they are trying to enforce, the message won’t last. Lastly, the authors talk about having the right skills. The communicators must be able to work well under pressure. They should be able to provide proof and documentation according to what they are addressing. They should listen to whoever is coming to them for guidance. Assumptions can cause legal trouble in a heartbeat, such as mentioned before in the EEOC case. Finally, great communicators need to show empathy. The best sentence I read in the “Change Agents” article was this: “Change agents must be able to put themselves in the shoes of people affected by the change.” How would you want this information communicated to you? Be respectful and understanding of other people’s ways of learning, understanding, and their sensitivity to certain topics.
There are multiple ways to communicate. Some we use every day, and some are more creative. First, though, you need to think about the message you will be sending. Do you want to talk to someone face-to-face, or can your message be communicated well through an email? How many people will the message need to be communicated to? Is this a sensitive message or informal? You can put things that need to be known into your policy and procedure manual and employee handbook. You can conduct video training and in-person training. Businesses can also report yearly to the EEOC to ensure that they are using best business practices. There are many factors to consider when choosing a way to communicate. In the article “20 Ways to Communicate Effectively With Your Team” by Valentine Belonwu on the Small Business Trends website, there are twenty ways to communicate what you need to say. While I can’t discuss all twenty, I will elaborate on some of them, especially the more creative and less thought-about ideas. The first idea is an open meeting. For me, an open meeting means there is two-way communication: manager to employees and feedback from employees to manager. Using presentation systems like PowerPoint or Prezi can get certain points across. Plus, these are creative outlets that can help employees remember information better with added visuals, animation, or transitions. Next, make sure that you communicate in a serious manner on serious subjects. If you do this, the employees will understand what is being said and why it is important. If you joke about it, they may not understand the importance of the message. Number 11 on the list is “Act Out Your Message.” Rather than making it a game of charades, I would just advise role modeling the behavior that you want your employees to follow. As far as training them on a new task, it can be modeled, and then allow them to take it hands-on. Another tip is to not repeat what you have said unless it is requested of you. Sometimes, when people hear the same thing repeatedly, it impacts them less. Lastly, thank whoever you are speaking with for their time. It will show them that you respect their time, and in turn, they will respect you more.
We can’t avoid it. We need communication. Some opposites of communication are ignorance and suppression. If something needs to be communicated, do it! But, map it out, think about your audience, and show your own confidence. Don’t use absurd remarks or obscenity. Stay calm and professional. Communication builds trust and a healthy workplace. It also helps to prevent nasty lawsuits. With communication comes change, and that change can be good or bad. A deliverer of a message should be ready for anything, should be good under pressure, and be knowledgeable about a situation or practice. Pick the best way to communicate the message, communicate it respectfully, stay calm and focused, and you will be successful at dodging those legalities in which you always want to avoid.
- Belonwu, Valentine. “20 Ways to Communicate Effectively With Your Team.” Small Business Trends. Small Business Trends LLC, 18 Nov. 2013. Web. 06 July 2017.
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- Johnson, Rose. “What Are the Benefits of Effective Communication in the Workplace?”com. Hearst Newspapers, LLC, n.d. Web. 05 July 2017.
- Noe, Raymond A., John R. Hollenbeck, Barry A. Gerhart, and Patrick M. Wright. “Chapter 3: The Legal Environment: Equal Employment Opportunity and Safety.” Human Resource Management: Gaining a Competitive Advantage. 7th ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Education, 2017. 116-41. Print.
- Tan, Amy, and Uwe W. Kaufmann. “Making Good Change Agents: Attitude, Knowledge, Skills.” ISixSigma. ISixSigma, d. Web. 07 July 2017.
- “Free Online Word Cloud Generator and Tag Cloud Creator.” Wordclouds.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 July 2017.