Med One Blog

Communication Styles in the Workplace

Communication Styles in the Workplace

By Ibby Smith Stofer

I invite you to do a communication styles assessment with me to reveal your style and maybe your age.

To begin, please close your eyes and try to empty your mind for these few moments. I promise this is nothing like those shows where you are hypnotized and embarrassed when you find out what you did. PROMISE!

Read the questions and record your answers about your communications style in the workplace.

Question 1: You just arrived at work and you want to invite a colleague to join you for lunch.

  • Do you send a text or IM?
  • Do you give them a quick call?
  • Do you send them an email?
  • Do you walk over to ask them in person?

Question 2: Your boss has sent you an email asking for details about your project.

  • Do you send a quick reply via message or text that you are on target and not to worry?
  • Do you send a detailed email with all he or she could want to know?
  • Do you invite them to meet to discuss the project face-to-face?
  • Do you pick up the phone and begin a lengthy dialog with the boss?

Question 3: The last question relates to the previous two.

  • Would your answer change if the colleague or boss was much older or younger than yourself?
  • How would it change if the individual were younger?
  • How would it change if they were older?

The first two questions of the communications styles assessmentand your own responses identify your preferred style of communication. Question three allows you to determine your flexibility in communicating in a multi-generational environment.

A review of the literature on how age affects your communication style preferences shows that our years of birth, exposure to various technology, and cultural norms all influence us, both directly and indirectly.

There is also significant literature on communication style and working or even living with multi-generational family and friends. Understanding the styles and preferences of our associates and those around us helps us be a better communicator, boss, friend, and family member.

Perhaps the site I find most informative was published by Notre Dame’s online university in early 2019. The author introduced the article by emphasizing that communication style includes the choice of medium (email, text, instant message, phone, or face-to-face), frequency, and speed. Today he would likely include Zoom or other internet video tools.

Looking at how you responded to the initial questions, did you think about these when responding? If you did, you might already understand the need to consider the receiver’s communication preference and your own. If not, you may experience frustration and bewilderment regarding what others expect or how they respond to you. Focusing on your own flexibility in communications may improve this area.

Have you ever worked for a boss who only wants face-to-face or voice-to-voice live communication, and you grew up with a phone, tablet, or computer always in reach? You may have quit or at least considered quitting on an almost daily basis. Life can be miserable if you are out of sync with the boss’s style.

Have your parents resisted accepting your iMessage or SMS messages as keeping in touch or sharing news with them? Worse yet, do you suggest to your family that they check your Facebook or Instagram accounts to see pictures of your vacation?

Communication preferences affect all of our relationships. Here are some helpful hints to guide us in choosing the communication style in the workplace.

When to Call or Use Video Technology

Consider the reason you are going to call or use video conferencing. Also, respect the communication preferences of the participant.

  • Topic or discussion is in-depth
  • You need to gather input from multiple sources who may not all be comfortable with email tag
  • Timing of input/response is urgent or requires prompt resolution
  • Ability to meet face-to-face is not an option due to logistics, availability, etc.

When to Use Email or Messaging for Business Communications

Recognize that over 50% of people see email as spam, and the open rate is highest on Tuesdays.

  • You need to send detailed how-to or other instructions
  • You need a record of the conversation
  • You need to include added documents, pictures, etc.
  • Timing of a reply is not urgent

As you prepare for your next business conversation with a colleague, customer, or boss, remember it is important to respect the other participant or participants’ preferred communication style and preference, including medium, speed, and frequency. Relationships and Trust are built one conversation at a time. Make each one be a building block to success.