There’s no doubt that when your workplace relationships are working well, your business prospers. But it only takes one bad relationship to start to erode your workplace harmony. When relationships in the workplace break down or you find yourself in conflict, feelings of dissatisfaction, irritation and perhaps anger or resentment start to fester within your team, and suddenly your workplace is not a place people look forward to going to each day.
It’s imperative as a business owner that you take a leadership role when it comes to the building healthy relationships in your workplace, so you and your team are working in sync.
When it comes to your leadership style, it can have an enormous affect on how your employees will relate to you. So it’s essential you take stock of how you’re communicating with your staff and assess where you can improve your communication and relationships, to boost your company’s productivity and profitability.
Why your communication style matters
Effective communication is at the basis of all healthy relationships, whether they are personal or work related. There are 3 basic communication styles that are important for you to know, so you can review your own communication style and see if it can be improved in your workplace.
Passive communication is when you don’t proactively ask for what you want or need from your employees. As the name suggests, passive communication usually involves the individual being passive in some way. If you’re a passive communicator, you don’t often share your thoughts and feelings, you let others take the lead in the communication, and you aren’t direct and succinct about what you want. Passive communicators often believe they ‘aren’t good enough’ and that ‘other people are better’, and so they take the ‘one down’ position with others in relationships. Passive communication isn’t effective in the workplace because you’re not fulfilling your leadership position.
Your staff are looking to you to provide direction, motivation and inspiration. If you’re being passive about what you want or expect, not making important decisions, or letting your team overrule your requests, your business will suffer in the long run. Another form or passive communication is passive aggression, which is a way of expressing anger indirectly. If you bottle up issues and don’t address them directly, but show your anger through indirect or covert ways, you’re being passive aggressive and undermining your work relationships.
Aggressive communication is where the speaker takes the ‘one-up’ position. They’ll often attack, belittle, blame, criticise and generally denigrate the other person to get what they want. More commonly they’ll use language such as ‘you’, ‘you’re’, ‘always’ and ‘never’ when speaking to their work colleagues.
For example, you might hear an aggressive communicator say, “You never finish your reports on time. You’re just not disciplined!” Deep down, aggressive communicators often feel vulnerable, weak or deficient in some way. They use aggressive communication to over-compensate and be the ‘top-dog’ in a situation. While this may work in the short term—you’ll often get what you want—it’s not a relationship based on equality. Over time the trust, faith and goodwill in your workplace relationships will erode, and this can be the beginning of the demise of your team.
Assertive communication is neither passive nor aggressive. Instead it’s a balanced communication style that privileges each voice in the conversation equally. An assertive communicator will freely and respectfully disclose their feelings, thoughts, wants and needs in a way that can be heard by the other. The basis of assertive communication is to treat all people equally. You support yourself in having a perspective and a voice, and you also respect that your employee has a perspective and a voice that may be different from yours, but is just as valuable. Assertive communicators use ‘I’ language to express their thoughts and feelings.
For example, “I’d appreciate it if you would have this report completed by the end of the week”. Assertive communicators don’t avoid conflict. In fact, they see expressing feelings as healthy and important, and will share these feelings respectfully.
What’s more, assertive communicators will expect that differences will arise in their team and be prepared to move into difficult and anxiety-provoking discussions. The important thing is the assertive communicator takes ownership of their feelings and thoughts, and doesn’t blame others for how they feel. This is an important distinction from the aggressive communicator, who will often blame others for the way they are feeling.
Use assertive communication to build happy and healthy workplace relationships
While these distinctions in communication in the workplace may seem small, they can pay dividends in the long run. Your employees will be happier, you will be modelling healthy and effective workplace communication and relating, and this will lead to you all working in greater to harmony for the benefit of your productivity, creativity and your bottom line.