Communication

Communication is an important part of your job – one that is often taken for granted. But honest communication is one of the key ingredients in managing change as well as managing people.

Your responsibility as a manager is to communicate clearly and concisely to all employees and create an environment conducive to openness for others. As the staff become more diverse, you may have to take extra time and effort to communicate to all staff members. To become a better communicator:

  • Develop trust. Create a safe environment for employees to communicate.
  • Encourage open communication. Encourage employees to talk about work issues; listen carefully and respond to questions or concerns with actions or answers. If an issue is outside your authority, pass it along to the appropriate person; then be sure to follow up. Keep an open door – be receptive to ideas, suggestions, viewpoints, comments, and complaints from your staff.
  • Conduct regular staff meetings. Tell your staff about decisions that may affect them or the work they do and the reasons for those decisions. Use staff meetings to encourage feedback, generate ideas, solve problems, and gain support.
  • Set up individual meetings. Set some time aside periodically to meet one-on-one with employees. Group staff meetings are important; however, meeting separately with your employees shows concern about their individual work issues.
  • Encourage feedback. Use a “how could we do it better” approach in coaching employees.
  • Be polite to everyone. Earn the respect of your staff.
  • Give compliments generously! They are completely free and always at your disposal.
  • Provide thorough instructions for assignments. Be especially careful with new employees.
  • When you want to motivate changed behavior, use constructive, positive criticism. Threats and fear are generally less effective and create a more challenging work environment. Yelling is never effective and no employee should be subjected to it.
  • Keep your relationships with your employees professional. They should not feel obligated to hang out with you after hours or be your “good buddy.”

Effective listening

An important ingredient that runs through all good communication is listening. Listening is a skill that can be practiced and learned. Your goal as a listener is to fully understand your employee’s experience and point of view. Give the employee a chance to talk for a while before you say anything.

  • Use non-verbal communication. Be aware of what you communicate with your body; your posture and expressions can convey your attitudes toward a speaker even before you say one word. Use body language to show the speaker that you are engaged in the conversation and open to hearing – don’t try to complete other tasks while talking to your employee.
  • Listen to understand the underlying feelings. Notice how something is said as well as the actual words used.
  • Don’t interrupt: Be sure you think carefully before you speak. As a listener, your job is to help the employee express him/herself.
  • Giving advice: Keep in mind that the best resolutions are those that people arrive at themselves, not what someone else tells them to do. If you feel it is appropriate, and only after you have encouraged the person to talk, offer some ideas and discuss them.

Responding

After you have listened and really heard, respond by conveying your interest and respect:

  • Empathize: Put yourself in the other person’s shoes and try to understand.
  • Validate: Acknowledge that the person’s feelings are valid. This is a very powerful tool because you are recognizing the person’s right to feel that way, regardless of whether you would feel the same way.
  • Restate what the other person has said: This allows you to make sure you understand the feelings and shows you are listening. Point out the good things the person has done or tried to do.
  • Clarify: Ask questions to get more information about the problem.
  • Summarize: Paraphrase the main points you have heard so that you can make sure you understand all the issues.

Discretion

There is such a thing as too much communication. One crucial element to being a good manager is knowing when to be discreet. In the course of your supervision of employees, you may become aware of issues of a sensitive nature, such as medical problems or personal crises. You must protect your employees’ privacy – personal matters are not to be discussed unless there is legitimate reason to do so, and then only with the specific individuals necessary (for instance, discussing a medical condition with USC’s leave coordinator to prepare an accommodation for an employee returning to work after a medical leave). If you have to deliver bad news to an employee, do it privately and in person. As much as possible, respect your employees and their privacy. Also see the Privacy of employee information page.

Resources

Basic Guide to Conducting Effective Meetings

How to Give (and Receive) Constructive Feedback

Communicating and Listening tracks in TrojanLearn

  1. Login to TrojanLearn (trojanlearn.usc.edu) using your USC NetID
  2. Search by the following titles below and click on the title link
  • Leadership Advantage: Communicating Bad News 2.0
  • Leadership Advantage: Listening 2.0
  1. Register and launch the training