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Workplace conversations – why they matter

For some time I’ve been a firm believer that we are losing the ability to talk as managers.

We want to (or some of us do), but we don’t know how, or we are worried we’ll get it wrong so we either don’t say anything or we say it in texts, messages and emails!

There’s a danger in the non-verbal communication choices. Employees who receive texts, messages and emails – well they go and return them. Still no conversation there then! They also have a tendency to share what they have been sent with their nearest and dearest. That text you were irritated by last night, how do you know it was sent by your employee?, it could have been their husband or partner.  It’s ‘one way’ at a time, and without any body language to aid understanding its very easy for a misunderstanding to occur between the parties in the conversation.  Yes, written has its place, but verbal is sooo much better.

Workplace conversations between a manager and their staff member, is a skill and one that needs to be practiced. Wanting to have a natter with someone shouldn’t mean that someone else has to attend to take notes. What about an informal ‘chat’ between the two of you, where the aim is for the parties to leave with greater understanding than when they arrived. Do it on good days, bad days and ‘in between’ days, but just do it.  If your staff sniff your fear in talking they are more likely to get you into situations where you end up writing. Be confident in your ability to talk. Face to face is best, but on the telephone is still better than email or a text.

So next time you feel tempted to write a notice rather than speak at a staff meeting, or the next time you get a text at 3 p.m. on Saturday from a staff member. Tell them you’ll chat to them Monday morning. Have those chats, make them count and gain confidence in your ability to gain so much from them. As Stephen Covey said in his book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, “Seek first to understand, then be understood!”

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