My experience shows me that when communication breaks down, so do any number of other systems in the organization. When we create a culture in which everyone is accountable for communication, we create an environment of trust, openness and honesty for our employees.
1.Include a policy on direct communication in your employee handbook.
When constructing systems for communication and establishing appropriate policy, consider open, honest and direct communication to be the best practice. When drafting policy language, include expectations such as:
- As a member of our staff, you are expected to take responsibility for yourself and to take ownership of giving and receiving clear communication. This means speaking directly with the person who can best address the concern.
- When a conflict arises between you and a co-worker, you are expected to first communicate directly with that person to resolve the conflict.
- If you are experiencing a conflict with your manager or you are affected by a management decision, you may resolve this conflict by talking directly to the manager you think has taken the action or made the decision.
2. Direct communication can also help to keep rumors and gossip in check.
Nothing harms trust like the rumor mill and direct communication practices can put a quick end to this undesirable aspect of workplace culture. By holding everyone in your organization accountable for clear, direct communication, you create a culture of openness and trust. When you empower your staff members to hold each other accountable for being direct, they are much less likely to start and/or perpetuate unwanted rumors.
3. Provide resources for times when communication breaks down.
Of course, direct communication practices won’t end all conflict in your organization. Conflicts will still arise from time to time, and sometimes communication will simply break down between individuals. The key is to respond to these situations promptly and constructively so they do not stand in the way of accomplishing your objectives. If your business has a human resources manager or staff, be sure employees are aware that HR can be a resource in situations where they are challenged by communication breakdowns and/or unresolved conflict.
Whether you have HR staff or not, an employee assistance program (EAP) can be another resource for your staff. EAP’s provide short-term counseling for employees, referrals to specialized professionals or organizations and follow-up services. Many EAPs also train business owners and supervisors in dealing with workplace problems. For more information, contact the Employee Assistance Professionals Association.
Encouraging everyone in your organization to break down barriers between people through direct, open communications can open the door to a more satisfied and productive workforce. Whether your organization is made up of three employees or 300, introducing open, honest and direct communication practices will help to ensure your overall organizational success.