Everyday conversations, delegating tasks, expressing feedback, conducting a business meeting, taking part in negotiations – these are just a selection of situations in our professional lives where how we express our thoughts is important. Our workplace communication styles affect our relationships with others, how we are perceived by others, what results we achieve, what conflicts we have to resolve and how we cooperate in a team.
Workplace communication styles – table of contents:
Below we answer the question of what it is that differentiates us from others in our workplace communication style, and describe four types distinguished by Geof Cox that you may encounter in your professional life.
What are workplace communication styles?
Workplace communication styles refer to the way an individual communicates information, expresses his or her thoughts, feelings, needs and ideas, as well as how he or she receives messages from co-workers. It is an individual’s way of communicating with others in various professional situations and contexts – both spoken and written. More often than not, the style depends on various factors such as personality, life experiences, culture, upbringing, values or social norms, among others. It includes the following elements:
- Verbal and nonverbal communication – referring to the way one expresses one’s thoughts and feelings through both words (spoken and written language) and body language, gestures, facial expressions, tone of voice and other nonverbal signals,
- Preference in the mode of communication – which determines whether a person is more likely to choose written (e.g., e-mail) or verbal (e.g., telephone, face-to-face) forms,
- The level of expression of emotions – indicates the level of involvement of individual feelings during the conversation.
Workplace communication styles according to Geof Cox
Geof Cox, author of the book “Negotiations: How to Achieve Win-Win Outcomes,” distinguished four types of workplace communication styles, which can be seen, among others, in team meetings, with business partners, negotiations, etc. In his book, he stressed that the key to success is to adapt one of these ways of expressing one’s thoughts to the specific situation and context. The work communication styles he distinguished are presented below.
People who use this method focus on concrete actions and problem-solving. They are practical, decisive and focused on achieving their goals – often at the expense of other people’s feelings, for example. They like to show initiative, have no problem making quick decisions, even are typically in a hurry. The saying “time is money” fits them perfectly – they expect the meeting to be as short as possible, which means they can quickly get to the point without wasting time on small talk. This type of person makes meetings energetic, yet fully effective.
Within this modality, the main importance is to seek the most optimal solution for a given situation. This type of person emphasizes analysis (data, facts, etc.), trying to be thorough, methodical and patient. As in the previous style of communication at work, what matters to them is the achievement of the desired result – but they do not expect actions to be taken immediately that will lead to this. They are characteristically involved in debates in which several people with different approaches consider possible action scenarios and decide which is best for a given situation.
Empathy, teamwork, listening to others – are elements that matter to those expressing this style of communication at work. The focus on relationships – making each feel heard and seen – is meant to build trust on the part of the other person and encourage people to share their feelings and experiences, which often makes it easier, for example, to negotiate or have difficult conversations with employees. This creates an environment where there is no fear of expressing one’s own opinion and indicating one’s feelings, which undoubtedly translates into better relations between individuals.
Focused on ideas
People with this kind of expression are focused on generating new ideas, concepts, models, and solutions – to achieve expected results in the future (e.g., gaining a competitive position in the market). They show initiative, want to test new solutions, and are not afraid to show their creativity. They need to surround themselves with people with whom they can enter stimulating brainstorming sessions and together come up with solutions that have not been seen before in the industry. What is particularly important, however, is that every time they think about deadlines, methods of execution or necessary resources, they postpone “for later”.
Downsides of the indicated workplace communication styles
It is not, of course, the case that each of the above-mentioned courses of action is only beneficial. Below we point out what the danger is in focusing on only one of them, without adapting to the specific situation:
- action-oriented – such a person may be considered arrogant, insensitive and expecting high results without commitment on their part,
- process-oriented – then the employee may tend to stall decision-making (and hold further meetings to consider further ideas, proposals or aspects),
- people-oriented – this type can be considered a person who talks too much (shares too personal experiences), which is not always befitting in workplace or business relationships,
- idea-oriented – such a person can lead to wasting resources on coming up with solutions that will encounter a barrier to implementation or execution.
The key to taking care of an effective message is undoubtedly the ability to stay flexible, that is, to adapt our way of expressing ourselves to the needs of the situation and the people with whom we are having a conversation or negotiation. As indicated, each of the methods outlined above has both pros and cons, which can help (or hinder) achieving the desired effect.
That’s why it’s important to be aware of them and notice their elements in your daily behavior – especially since workplace communication style is not immutable, but can be developed and improved throughout life. In this way, it will bring a better understanding of oneself and others, which will positively affect the quality of social interactions, including in business dealings.