Why is effective communication important in the workplace?

by Don Lowe

March 1, 2019

Effective communication at work is the key to success​. The art of great communicat​ion when mastered, helps us to connect with and inspire others. 

​The communication challenge

If information is not communicated effectively, to the right people and at the right time, it is useless at best. Many software projects fail due to ​poor communication. ​

Wise men speak because they have something to say; fools because they have to say something.

orange line


Every person receives and interprets information differently. What we express as an assumption, another person may decode as a fact. The game of Chinese whispers is a great way to show how information and our interpretation of it changes dramatically, when passed from person to person. 

The importance of communication in the workplace

Effective communication creates a common understanding of the reasons for the project and its objectives. This also enables team members to carry out their activities at the right time and to the agreed upon level of quality. Furthermore, all projects require good leadership and clear direction to succeed, both of which are based on solid communication skills. 

Forbytes why is effective communication important in the workplace article programmer manager laptops talking miscommunication misunderstanding illustration

Communicating with the decision makers and key stakeholders empowers them to remain engaged and informed at all times. This enables them to make decisions in a timely manner, allowing a smooth flow of work in the development team. And last but not least, clear and honest communication can identify misleading assumptions, preventing misunderstandings and conflicts. 

What about your team?

Take a moment to reflect on the following questions: 

  • 1
    ​Do all the members of the project and secondary stakeholders trust each other?
  • 2
    ​Do team members communicate and collaborate even when the pressure is on?
  • 3
    Does everyone have a common understanding of what capability the project needs to deliver and why?

​The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn't said.

orange line

​Peter Drucker

  • 4
    ​​Are the requirements well-defined and understood by everyone?
  • 5
    Is the project status clear to all stakeholders, at all times?

​Communication and work environment go hand in hand

When talking about effective communication at work you also need to consider the work environment. A stifling atmosphere can be the death of any communication before it even starts. Consider the following:

  • 1
    ​Is there a relaxed and comfortable feeling in the work environment?
  • 2
    ​Are team members pro-active and involved?
  • 3
    ​Do they "dare to be different" if it will contribute to the good of the project?
  • 4
    ​Can they challenge the status quo to deliver better results?
Forbytes why is effective communication important in the workplace article manager cash cow talking miscommunication continues illustration

Effective communication in the workplace demands that the team feels free to speak their minds. This should be encouraged, even if it means rocking the boat a little. At the end of the day, what is most important is that the project is delivered to the best of your team's abilities. 

​Tips on how to improve your workplace communication

​Have a simple communication strategy

​Write up a simple communications strategy that gives guidance in relation to the following:

  • 1
    ​What to communicate.
  • 2
    ​Who will communicate and who should the communication be directed at.
  • 3
    ​How to communicate.
  • 4
    ​How NOT to communicate.
  • 5
    When to communicate.

In the communication strategy, use role names rather than referring to individual people. This ensures that the strategy remains relevant even when individuals join or leave your project team. Also remember that the strategy is there for guidance; it is not a hard and fast rule book.

The communication strategy should cover general communication and specific management areas within the project. These include areas such as risk management, quality management and requirements management.

​Responsibilities on a personal level

As a general rule each person in the project organisation should take responsibility to find out and know the answers to the following questions: 

  • ​What information do I need to do my job?
  • ​Who do I get the information from for me to do my job?
  • ​How can I communicate with others so they will understand me?

​Some other useful tips

​Talk face-to-face

A large part in how we communicate with others is in body language. The tone of your voice is also a very important factor. Both of these factors disappear if you rely solely on writing. You should only use email as a backup to face-to-face conversations when covering contentious issues.

As an example, consider the following message: "I hope you can understand." Is it apologetic or is it condescending? It is easy for a reader to misinterpret your words if they are not in the same frame of mind. 

Forbytes why is effective communication important in the workplace article cash cow programmer talking confusion illustration

Use capability breakdown structure

​Make use of capability breakdown structure and a build roadmap. This will ensure that you stay on top of all the ​tasks required to complete your project. It will also provide a handy visual, making it one of the better communication methods in the business place. 

​Write detailed requirements

​Writing detailed requirements is very important ​in order to have effective communication at work. It provides clarity for those directly and indirectly involved in the project. This in turn gives everyone a better chance at spotting an issue well before time and energy has been funnelled into the task.

​Weekly project status reports

Weekly project status reports are a good way to keep on top of any problems that might have appeared during the week. Additionally, everyone involved can get a sense of progress, which is motivating. 

​Famous last words?

Effective communication in the workplace can give you an edge over your competitors, as the information is transmitted more efficiently therefore saving time and money. It is worth investing your energy into breaking down any communication barriers. Furthermore, it develops trust, confidence and cooperation between co-workers. Everyone wins.

If you have any further questions​, get in touch.