Common Workplace Communication

Workplace communication skills, and avoiding workplace communication issues, are paramount in today's competitive business world.

Communicating with your supervisor

The way in which supervisors communicate with their employees has as much to do with their unique personalities as their managerial styles. For example, you may have a supervisor who is stern and direct, telling you what to do and how to do it—clearly communicating expectations. Or you may have a hands-off supervisor who will give you an idea of what to do with no clear distinction on how to go about doing it.

You may work best with a certain type of supervisor, but learning to communicate effectively with your supervisor is crucial to your workplace success—whatever his or her managerial style.

Accepting instruction from your supervisor

A supervisor's primary function is to direct and instruct employees. When accepting instruction from your supervisor:

  • Keep a positive attitude; remember, it's this person's job to tell you what to do
  • Take notes if necessary
  • Ask probing questions when an explanation is given
  • Ask for resources such as manuals, other people, and websites; your supervisor might know of such resources but neglect to mention them
  • If your questions are met with unclear answers and explanations, don't panic and instead conduct more research; if appropriate, use coworkers as resources

Explaining a problem to your supervisor

It can be difficult to explain a problem to your supervisor without displaying angry, confrontational, whiny, or desperate behavior. Displaying such behavior will only undermine your supervisor's willingness to listen to your problem. When explaining a problem to your supervisor:

  • Ask your supervisor (when alone or via email) if he or she has some time to talk; don't mention specifics, and estimate the amount of time you'll need
  • State the problem calmly and clearly
  • Make a request
  • Get feedback
  • Consider the next step
  • Follow up