Importance of Communication Skills in the Workplace

Every patient wants their medical provider to be a perfectionist. And every medical provider strives for perfection. Yet medical errors occur. If a provider makes a mistake, it could jeopardize a patient’s life. The ideal of perfection does not permit a medical provider to feel comfortable asking for help. The current medical culture does not readily support an individual after a mistake occurs, and dialogue between providers can be difficult. Often the communication involves reprimands and negative repercussions which only reinforce the traditional code of silence. Peer support should replace a lone clinician coping with adversity.1

In the workplace setting, employees often make mistakes. Every job has a set of skills which must be learned and mastered. But when mistakes happen, asking for help can make an employee feel inadequate. The culture of fear of punitive action causes employees or subordinates to remain silent.

Instead of fear, a culture of excellence and support should be fostered where any employee can feel safe discussing an adverse event or mistake and be willing to ask for assistance. Leaders influence employees to achieve organizational goals, and communication is the channel or medium that transmits the messages between leaders and followers.2 Open communication should replace feelings of fear and shame. Working together as a team toward a common goal should replace feelings of isolation and guilt. A good manager will establish a flow of communication between leadership and employees by creating trust and strengthening relationships. The Johari Window is a useful tool for developing trust and understanding between individuals through feedback and disclosure of information.3 By appropriately offering information about oneself, colleagues can begin to build stronger relationships and open channels of communication. Within this relationship, individuals will be more willing to open a dialogue with leaders when conflicts arise or mistakes are made.

An open-door policy where employers communicate regularly, solicit feedback, lead by example and listen without judgment will encourage frank communication and problem solving between workers and supervisors.4 Overcoming barriers to communication will enhance free flow of discourse within the organization. Coping skills such as empathy, active listening, and understanding the beliefs of others will diminish barriers.3 Regular staff meetings, one-on-one discussions, and freedom to offer ideas to leadership might enhance employee involvement and further develop interpersonal relationships. When employees feel they can talk with managers, they will ask for assistance in times of need and become more productive while increasing overall morale.

References

  1. Shapiro J, Galowitz P. Peer support for clinicians: A programmatic approach. Acad Med. 2016;91(9):1200-1204. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000001297 [doi].
  2. Zerfass A, Huck S. Innovation, communication, and leadership: New developments in strategic communication. International Journal of Strategic Communication. 2007;1(2):107-122. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/15531180701298908. doi: 10.1080/15531180701298908.
  3. Borkowski N. Organizational behavior in health care. 3. ed. ed. Burlington, Mass: Jones & Bartlett Learning; 2016:79-90.
  4. Myers K, Sadaghiani K. Millennials in the workplace: A communication perspective on millennials’ organizational relationships and performance. J Bus Psychol. 2010;25(2):225-238. https://www.jstor.org/stable/40605781. doi: 10.1007/s10869-010-9172-7.