How to create a good communication culture at work

by Betty Lochner on November 2, 2011

The problem with communication is the illusion that it has been accomplished. – George Bernard Shaw

Have you ever worked for a terrible boss?  Or been in a horrible work environment?  Most of us can tell at least one story about a “boss from hell” or about the most depressing place we’ve ever worked.

Now, think about your best boss and favorite place to work.  What made it that way?

When you think about it, it all comes down to workplace culture. Organizations that are a great place to work in have a culture of good communication. And,  I think we would all agree that the culture is most often established by the boss, or leader.  It’s not so easy creating a great place to work.  But is all starts with good, consistent communication. 

The key component to building a culture of good communication, is having a leader that is wiling to show the way and inspiring others to follow. They can do this by communicating clearly, making their expectations clear, skill training, but most important modeling and teaching others to do the same.

According to a Harris Interactive/Wall Street Journal business school survey, communication and interpersonal skills remain at the top of the list of what matters most to employers.  Good communication is the most important skill that an employer wants and desperately needs for a successful and productive work environment.

Even though a workplace culture starts at the top, regardless of your position in the pecking order, here are several way that you help create a culture of good communication.

1. Have clear expectations.
Failure to communicate clearly leaves people unsure of what is expected of them. So, know the fundamentals.  Learn and display good interpersonal communication skills.  Be clear about what you expect, and by when. Express yourself well verbally, as well as on paper or through email. And don’t forget to pay attention to your non-verbal communication — it accounts for over half of what we communicate.

2. Think clearly about what you will say before you say it.  Too many people ramble on about their thoughts rather than flesh them out first. In short think before you speak. Be concise and get to the point.  And when you are finished, ask questions to ensure that you were understood.

3. Don’t just stand there, listen. 
Discussions are meaningless if no one is listening. Spend more time listening than talking. In meetings, make your expectations clear about distractions, such as the use of Blackberries or cell phones. When you think about it, using a Blackberry in a meeting or conversation is really not much different than reading a newspaper while the meeting is taking place. It’s rude and unproductive. Modeling an environment of listening intently will head off misunderstandings and maybe even a few potential disasters.

4. Be prepared for meetings.
Documents for meetings should be distributed in advance and made clear and concise. Take the time think about your objectives and outcome expectations of the meeting before it starts. Develop a culture of starting on time.  If you start your meeting at the scheduled time,  people will soon follow your lead and join in the culture to be on time and show respect for others people’s time.

5. Engage in discussion.
Ask open ended questions rather than make statements. Lead the discussion, but don’t take it over. Let the thought process and debate happen.  Most creative ideas come from empowering others to speak up. Ask for different perspectives and then listen to them. Resist taking over the conversation.  Make it clear that you want to hear alternate points of view and then do it.

What are other ways you can contribute to culture of good communication?  I’d love to hear your thoughts, and some good boss stories about putting this into place!


 Betty Lochner, Cornerstone Coaching & TrainingBetty Lochner is the Owner of Cornerstone Coaching & Training. She specializes in personal and organizational transformation and is the author of Dancing with Strangers: Communication skills for transforming your life at work and at home.

To find out more about Cornerstone’s services and offerings, please visit my website:

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