Do you consider yourself a strong workplace communicator because you do it every day? Many of the habits people develop in casual conversation are read differently in workplace contexts. In fact, an article in Forbes, “The 10 Worst Communication Mistakes for Your Career,” (Goudreau, 2012) lists ten common mistakes people make in workplace communication that inhibit their ability to be seen as leaders in the workplace.
The top ten communication mistakes include:
- Racially based comments
- Off-Color Jokes
- Sounding Uneducated
- Avoiding Eye Contact
You may think you have none of these habits, but try asking a friend to critique your daily communication skills. My guess is that you are guilty of at least one of these communication blunders—rambling being the easiest trap to fall into. The first step in communicating effectively in the workplace is to cultivate awareness of your normal communication tendencies. Practicing conscious communication, or ethical, strategic communication means to consider the audience (both immediate and extended audience), context, medium, timing, and of course the actual words, images, and gestures that compose the message. More specifically, conscious communication requires (Goodall, Goodall, & Schiefelbein, 2010):
- Mindfulness: paying attention to how workplace goals are met and demonstrating a care and concern for others and the contexts where communication happens
- Awareness that communication is a process: exercising knowledge that communication does not happen in isolated instances. Each communicative encounter in the workplace has numerous implications for future conversations and relationships. All workplace communication composes the workplace experience, environment and community.
- Respect for diversity: responding intelligently to workplace differences by appropriately acknowledging and accounting for workplace differences such as age, race, socioeconomic level, gender and culture
- Balancing strategy, ethics, and outcomes: crafting pointed communication with clear goals that address a specific audience while considering the different identities that compose the audience.
The goal of consciously communicating in the workplace may seem daunting when you imagine considering each of these components in every communication situation that arises in the workplace. To help you achieve conscious communication in your workplace, or even your job search, you can use the CCCD model (Goodall, Goodall, & Schiefelbein, 2010). To consciously communicate you can work through the following steps to address each workplace communication situation appropriately.
- Choose a communication goal. In other words, what do you want to accomplish by sending an email, giving a presentation, running a meeting, etc.?
- Craft your message. Ask yourself, what are my main points, medium, introduction/conclusion, style? How should I organize my message?
- Coordinate your message with others in your workplace. For example, create an agenda, make sure the right people will hear your message and adapt as necessary.
- Deliver your message. Be sure to practice, get feedback, and incorporate feedback into your final communication. This step includes making sure that you keep your audience’s attention in ways that fit the communication context.
These tools for cultivating clear, cogent workplace communication, which will directly impact your role and value in the workplace may seem simple. However, if you have ever sat through poor communication in a workplace, you know that they do not come naturally to most people. Make sure you honor your coworker’s time and treat them respectfully by engaging in conscious communication. If you consider these strategies for conscious communication, you will likely be able to avoid all of the communication blunders reported by Forbes.
Goodall, H.L., Goodall, S., & Schiefelbein, J. (2010). Business and professional communication in the global workplace. Boston, MA: Wadsworth.
Goudreau, J. (2012). The 10 worst communication mistakes for your career. Forbes. Retrieved from
Keeley Hunter is a Project Coordinator for the Taylor Family Undergraduate Career Center [Updated: Keeley Hunter no longer works for Daniels College of Business.]