While hearing the word “etiquette” might conjure up thoughts of an entry from Miss Manners about the right attire for an outdoor springtime party, questions involving business etiquette usually involve proper workplace communication.
Having recently published my book, The Drama-Free Workplace, I’ve been focusing on issues related to workplace conduct and can offer some tips to make your workplace healthier and more respectful.
Most issues involving communication mishaps (at work and everywhere else) fall into one of two categories:
- Saying nothing for fear of saying the wrong thing; and
- Saying the wrong thing.
If someone at work opts for the first choice, then the problem persists and almost always gets worse. This option reminds me of a “dicho” (Spanish saying) that I heard often growing up – el sol no se tapa con un dedo – literally “you can’t cover the sun with one finger” but essentially “you can’t make a problem go away by ignoring it.”
Confrontation is hard but too often coworkers and bosses fail to address an issue thinking that it will be poorly received or that it will cause further friction.
And unfortunately the fear of saying the wrong thing is an understandable fear – the majority of my own 1200+ workplace investigations were rooted in issues related to people saying the wrong thing at work. Allegations were often triggered by rude or belittling comments, always causing hurt and feelings of exclusion.
Here are a few tips for honing your workplace communication skills:
- When it comes to communication issues, my advice is to improve your skills of precision and persuasion. Often the person’s intentions aren’t bad, but they use words that predictably upset the listener, or put the listener on the defensive. So be impeccable with your words. Try practicing your conversation if you know it will be difficult or emotional. See how certain words or phrases land and think of whether what you’re saying is actually conveying what you mean to say. I call this becoming a compassionate sharpshooter – being equal parts direct and respectful.
- Become an expert workplace meteorologist – someone who can easily “read the temperature” of a room and adjust words and actions according to what you know will resonate. This requires keen listening and observations skills and is essentially another way to measure emotional intelligence (EQ) in the social-awareness category. Remember that while the workplace might be filled with people with decent IQ scores, EQ scores continue to lag behind, so this is a perfect opportunity for you to sharpen skills that will make your own efforts stand out, and will put you on the road to becoming a master communicator.
- Learn the language of motivation for those around you. A key to good communication is the ability to persuade – not to change anyone’s mind about a topic, but to learn to get your point across in a way that resonates with your listener. Keep your goal in mind and know that being right isn’t always right. If you want to be a coworker known as one who understands business etiquette, then you will learn that you need to adjust your communication style depending on who you are speaking with.
As we close out National Business Etiquette Week, I’m reminded that the topic of appropriate business communication is still one that needs to be discussed and unpacked. Hopefully, these simple tips will help you on your road to perfecting your workplace etiquette skills.
Patti Perez is VP of Workplace Strategy at Emtrain and the author of The Drama-Free Workplace. Connect with Patti on LinkedIn.
Grab a copy of her book, The Drama-Free Workplace.