STRETCH YOUR COMMUNICATION SKILLS
by Ivy Rutledge
Right now in the United States, three generations are coexisting and collaborating in the workplace. Sure, there has always been a generation gap, but today the differences are more stark. Technology is changing quickly and shifting the way people work and communicate, and it’s more important than ever for the workplace to change, too. Rather than judging or criticizing the ways others behave, try to understand and respect the generational differences in your work environment. Remember that effective communication is about getting your message across to your audience.
KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
As much as possible, try to communicate with your co-workers using the channels they prefer. Pay attention to the ways your co-workers communicate, and make an effort to pick up the phone or send a text if that is what you think will get their attention.
- If your co-worker enjoys personal contact and typically uses the phone to communicate, give them those things from time to time. Call them to follow up after you’ve sent them an important email. Show up on time for meetings, and be prepared to interact. Drop by their office periodically to check in on mutual concerns.
- If your co-worker relies heavily on texts and emails, keeps work life limited to office hours, and makes every minute count, respect their need for efficiency. Keep meetings from straying from the set agenda. Limit emails to one topic, and get to the point early. If you knock on an office door or make a phone call, always ask the person you are seeking if they have adequate time available. If not, plan an alternate time or agree to communicate via email.
- If your co-worker keeps a flexible schedule, relies on texts and emails, and works around the clock, try to accommodate these modes of working. If a communication needs a prompt reply, state that need explicitly. Offer them options, and be flexible. Don’t take it personally if they don’t return your call or email right away.
KNOW YOUR MESSAGE
- What exactly do you need to communicate?
- Why is it important?
- What results do you expect?
- What is the best channel for this message?
For successful communication to take place, you must be able to convey these key items to your audience. A good match between message, channel, and audience is essential for effective communication. Taking the time to match these up shows that you value your co-workers. You build good relationships in the workplace the same way you build good relationships anywhere else — with respect and understanding. Once you’ve achieved mutual respect and understanding, you should have no problem communicating with each other!
Originally from Rhode Island, Ivy Rutledge lives and writes
in the Piedmont of North Carolina. She has an MA in English
and a special interest in environmental issues. Her work has
appeared in print in The Sun and Home Education, and
online in the Mom Egg Review, Tilt-a-Whirl, The Copperfield
Review, and Ruminate.