As promised with our last post, we’ll dig a bit deeper into both verbal and written communication in this edition. As you know, communication is critical to ensuring a successful workplace. Miscommunication can create so many unnecessary issues for you and your team, many of which can end up costly. There are times when verbal communication should be the primary channel, and other times when written communication may be more appropriate. And more often than not, sending a message both verbally and in writing is best!
Verbal communication is ideal when there is a need for dialogue and/or to allow the opportunity for the receiver of the message to ask questions. Verbal communication also allows for the opportunity to connect with employees or team members in a way that isn’t possible with written communication. When it comes to providing direct feedback to an employee, verbal communication is best. While there are times in which communicating a message to an employee may be slightly uncomfortable – when you know that the message may not be welcome – providing the message verbally is the best route to go. (Sending this type of communication in writing is not something that a strong leader would do). Of course, it may be necessary to send follow-up messaging in writing. For example, when providing coaching to an employee. Some situations only necessitate written communication. For instance, a quick, straightforward message reminding everyone that the project is due on Friday can be sent in a simple email. This is a form of one-way communication that is informational in nature and doesn’t necessarily require back and forth discussion. If you introduce a new policy within your organization – for example, all vacation time must be used by December 31st of each year, and any vacation that isn’t used by that date will be paid out – it should be communicated both verbally and in writing. If you communicate this information at a staff meeting, it gives employees the opportunity to ask any questions that they may have. Sending the policy out via email after the meeting, along with messaging that a copy of the policy will be placed online, is also a good idea. This ensures that everyone is fully aware of the policy, which will avoid any confusion down the road. In an example such as this, it’s also important to note that information is communicated to future employees. This will likely occur by including the information in the employee handbook and by speaking about it during the onboarding process.
As a leader, be mindful of your communication style. Whether it be verbally or in writing – and this is especially important when discussing challenging issues – exude a sense of calm through your messaging. Yes, be direct, but ensure that you aren’t going to increase anxiety or add to any existing chaos based on how you communicate. As well, when it comes to written communication, ensure that you provide the message in a clear and concise manner. Don’t provide contradicting information in your messaging, and keep written communication to a reasonable length; otherwise, you risk losing your audience, which could have a negative impact on the message you are attempting to send.
Regardless of the situation, it’s always best to provide communication via more channels than less. Even if you think it may seem redundant, send a follow-up email or include the information in your company newsletter, for example. After all, some people process written communication better than verbal communication. We could fill many more pages on communication, but hopefully this post and our last one will provide you with a helpful tip or two moving forward.