Workplace Survival Guide, Part 2

This article is a follow-up to Workplace Survival Guide Part 1. This series is designed to help workers make good impression on bosses, fit in with co-workers, and succeed in their careers.

communication dos and don’ts

Communication is one of the most important skills you’ll need on the job. A large percentage of the interpersonal problems that happen in the workplace boil down to communication problems. If you don’t communicate clearly, you may give people the wrong impression – they may feel that you’re insulting them or not taking them seriously, when that was not your intention. Everyone thinks and speaks a little differently, so often, we aren’t aware of how we come across to others. Keep these techniques in mind.

Do: mind the gap – the generation gap. Older workers tend to prefer face-to-face conversations, finding that they express themselves better that way. Younger employees tend to prefer email, text, or DMs, finding in-person meetings to be too time-consuming. Be aware of your audience, and if a certain method of communication doesn’t seem to be working, try a different one.

Don’t: get mean, angry, or insulting. Never lose your temper, even if you are provoked – keep to the high road and maintain your professionalism. Do not talk to another employee as if they’re the problem. Talk to them about how you can work together to fix the problem. If you create a “me vs. you” dynamic, the other person is going to become defensive. But if you can create an “us vs. the problem” mentality, you can move forward.

Do: think about their perspective. As the adage goes, walk a mile in the other person’s shoes. Before you express yourself to a colleague, stop and think: How is the other person going to feel about what you’re saying? Be aware of what your colleagues are feeling and thinking. And if you don’t know, ask. If someone seems to be upset/angry for no good reason. . .there probably is a reason that you don’t know about.  Give them the benefit of the doubt.

Don’t: tune out what others are saying. Do you really listen when other people are talking, or are you waiting for your own turn to speak? If you have a tendency to tune people out, ask yourself: how does it make you feel when other people treat you that way? Active listening is a key part of good communication. Give your co-workers your attention and respect.

Do: pay attention to your tone of voice. It’s not just what you say that matters, it’s how you say it. When speaking with a colleague, keep some energy and enthusiasm in your voice. That will make the other person feel that you’re enjoying the conversation. Tone of voice is especially important when you’re having a difficult conversation – for example, correcting a colleague’s error or reminding them about an uncompleted task. If your voice is friendly, calm, and patient, you can avoid making the other person feel as though you’re attacking them.

Don’t: let your body language sabotage you. A large percentage of communication is non-verbal. Even if you say the right things, the way you carry yourself may make you look hostile or distracted. Make sure you maintain eye contact with the other person, as well as a friendly facial expression. Avoid sullen-looking gestures such as crossed arms or slouching.

Do: recognize your bad habits and work to change them. Nobody’s perfect. We all have bad habits when it comes to communication. The key to being successful at workplace communication is to realize your weak spots and work to improve or overcome them.

If you would like further assistance with these soft skills, please call us at 225-231-3733, email our Career Coach at, or visit our YouTube channel.

Written by Lynnette Lee