This is a guest post by Sandra Upeslacis who is the Manager, Talent Retention and Acquisition at NATIONAL Public Relations, past articles by Sandra are here.
Not everyone is born with the gift of gab, but those of us who choose a career in communication should be able to interact effectively with others at work. Unfortunately, we don’t always walk the talk.
It’s easy to forget the potential impact of words when you’re on deadline and you badly need some information from a co-worker who has forgotten or neglected to provide it to you. Your first instinct may be to tap out a message on your laptop, cell phone or Blackberry, using some indelicate “bon mots” to express the urgency of the matter. After all, it’s easier and faster to text than to take the time to walk down the hall and say what it is you need in person. However, if you think texting will get the other person to give you what you need real quick, you could be mistaken.
Ever had to re-read an email a few times because you weren’t sure what the other person was trying to say? Studies have shown that Canadians spend more than half an hour each day re-reading emails because they are confused about what the senders intended. If you want co-workers to clearly understand your message, just tell them, face to face.
A Mayo Clinic study released in May 2009 found that short, preoperative team briefings prior to cardiac surgery – where each person on the team speaks – improves communication and reduces errors and costs. The study found that these briefings, which were held in the operating room immediately prior to the first surgery of the day and, allowed each team member to discuss their role in the procedure, reduced “miscommunication events” by 53 percent.
Admittedly, most communicators’ jobs don’t involve life-or-death situations, but taking care to communicate effectively with co-workers can make a difference in achieving success at work. I believe in taking five minutes out of each day to do a walk around the office, say hello to others, and show interest in what they are doing. It sends a positive signal that you acknowledge your colleagues and value their presence. It also provides an opportunity to “read” a person’s mood. What is on your colleague’s mind today? I’m not only talking about work – sometimes people are distracted by a loved one who is ill, wedding plans, a home renovation…there are many things going on that can affect how someone responds. The trick is to stay in touch so that you are in tune with those around you. Most of what we communicate in person has nothing to do with speech. It’s in the eyes, the body language, the colour (or lack of colour) in a person’s cheeks. If you need something badly from a colleague, and they seem under the weather, make sure you ask nicely for the information right away – before that person leaves to go home sick. Who knows when they’ll be back?
There are 100 communication professionals in my place of work. I have to admit, I don’t have time to chat with each person every day. I have occasionally been in the elevator, heading up to my office, when I notice someone else has pressed the key for our main floor. I take a look around, and if I see someone familiar but don’t remember their name, I make sure to stop and say hello and introduce myself when that person is getting off the elevator. It’s hard to keep track of all the staff on three different floors of our building, but it’s important to make the effort to connect. That spontaneous face-to-face exchange could be the start of something good.
Sandra Upeslacis is the Manager of Talent Retention and Acquisition at NATIONAL Public Relations, Canada’s largest public relations firm with more than 325 employees in nine offices across Canada, in London and New York. www.national.ca . Email, [email protected][ad]