4 types of workplace communication, and 12 tips for improvement

There are four main types of workplace communication: verbal, body, phone and written. During any point in the workday, you are always faced with at least one. Understanding how to communicate within these fields can be one of the most delicate skills an employee can learn.

Profile photos of the 12 thought leaders mentioned in the article

Put the other person first

No matter what type of communication you’re taking, put the other person first. If that’s verbal communication, use inclusive language that connects you and other people to the same situation. For written communication, avoid using the word “you” and instead use sentences that describe the general situation. Seek to level the playing field as much as possible so that workplace communication can be collaborative instead of one-sided. 

Brett Farmiloe, Markitors

Ask meaningful questions

Our employees and our colleagues are human beings first - with families living under one roof 24/7, hacked together office spaces, screaming kids, a family member that may be ill. If we can give grace first and assume that whatever you perceived was the best possible version of that thing (i.e. a short cold email was really just all the time he had available between feeding his kids), we come from a place of seeing and being for other people, at their best and at their worst times.

Sydney Miller, Tech Talent South

Personalise your communication to fit individual needs

Due to the fact that there are four types of communication in the workplace, verbal (in-person), body language, phone conversations and written communications, understanding that each of your employees probably reacts better to one form over the other is vital for successful communication. Narrow down how your employees want to be communicated with and commit to personalizing your communication style to fit their needs. 

Pete Newstrom, Arrow Lift

Write meeting minutes

Make use of diagrams in written communication and have visual meeting reminders and meeting minutes. This is because many individuals have a strong visual modality, including neurodiverse individuals. Companies may need to include features that allow for the sharing of video or photos on workplace communication tools. Having visual meeting reminders and meeting minutes can help people who struggle with verbal discussions and explanations and who struggle with keeping up with the pace of verbal discussions. One person can be appointed to write up meeting minutes for every important meeting and short and concise sentences should be used in the minutes.

Kevin Lee, Journey Pure

Align, correct and realign

Whenever I communicate I always follow the same model. We align, correct, and realign. Always focus on the positive and correct actions when necessary, but you want to make sure you build that positive interaction with everyone you meet and make sure you are on the same page.

Loren Howard, Prime Plus Mortgages

Learn how to react to written communication

Written communication is beneficial for outlining previously agreed-upon guidelines, processes or a plan. But, most communication within our company is verbal because it makes people feel heard, and it dramatically reduces the miscommunication that results from relying on written communication alone. The moment you feel offended or frustrated by written communication, I recommended immediately scheduling a phone call or a meeting to ask about the intention behind the written communication and share how you received it.

Stephen Warley, Life Skills That Matter

Ask for clarity before drawing conclusions

When it comes to verbal communication, lead with curiosity. Ask for clarification and explanation before drawing a conclusion. Remember the goal of the conversation and craft your dialogue to remain true to the goal. Reframe questions so they are more palatable. For example, instead of asking why something happened, ask the person to explain their thinking. This will provide the insights you need to better understand what happened.

Diane Helbig, Helbig Enterprises

Don't overlook anyone

First, be respectful. The person you’re speaking to is considered a professional in their area and they have been hired, just like you, for a reason. Allow them to do your job even as you seek to do yours. Treat them with respect, speak to them as another professional. Second, be collaborative. If you’re only communicating because you need a particular piece of information, state that, thank the person, and move on. However, if you need to collaborate or work for a longer time on a team together, take advantage of allowing the whole team to shine through personal strengths. 

Antti Alatalo, SmartWatches4U

Take other perspectives into account

The best way to improve communication is to understand the nature of it. As the person communicating, it is our responsibility to ensure what we are saying is what is received correctly to the person being communicated with. For communication that is not context-rich, such as written or phone conversations, our word choice or tone can convey frustration or any number of emotions if we are not careful. That being said, self-awareness and empathy can help us understand how what we are saying will be perceived. 

Steven Brown, DP Electric Inc

Learn behavior patterns of one another

Whenever communicating, follow body language patterns such as making direct eye contact, striving to remember personal details and trying to understand another person’s perceptions. Specifically for the neurodiverse workforce, written instructions in simple language and bullet points help autistic people to understand better. While, for vision impairment workforce, you can either use linear & logical layout with text magnified to 200% or you can use audio content or phone conversations. 

Hima Pujara, Signity Solutions

Pay attention to tone

With the current pandemic, phone conversations are becoming the primary means of communication for many businesses. Tone is a huge component when conversing on the phone because you do not have any other indicators that will tell you how the person is feeling and what type of conversation they want to have. Make sure that when you are talking to someone on the phone that your tone is professional and friendly. Always make sure that you are sitting straight up and projecting so that those things plus an appropriate tone will make for a smooth phone conversation. 

Vanessa Molica, The Lash Professional

Verbal, body language, phone calls and written communication 

For verbal communication, keeping an even volume of tone, despite how the conversation is going, will calm employees and not send them through highs and lows in a conversation as the volume of your voice goes up and down.  

Body language can be the difference between a productive conversation and an unfruitful one. Make sure that your body language doesn't make the other person feel defensive or uncomfortable. Good body language fuels a productive conversation. 

During phone conversations, tone will be the defining factor in a good versus bad phone conversation. Because you are not face to face with the person, tone will be a huge indicator of how the person is feeling. Make sure that your tone is professional, friendly and always represents the company well. 

Written communication can be the trickiest because there are fewer indicators of how the written piece should be perceived. However, little things like punctuation can make a difference in how something is perceived. Avoid using exclamation points as they can be taken as someone yelling or being aggressive instead of excitement. 

Kenna Hamm, Texas Adoption Centre

Resource pack: Making the workplace work for everyone

1 in 5 people have a neurodivergent condition such as dyslexia, autism or ADHD, and each brings unique strengths to your team. But is your working environment set up for their success?

In this resource pack, you'll find ways to help employees understand, communicate and work to their best ability. Hear from neurodiversity experts from Lexxic, Neurodiversity at Work, Exceptional Individuals, the UK Civil Service Neurodiversity Network & more. They'll share actionable tips for creating workplaces where innovation and productivity can flourish.