Communication at workplace: It’s how you say it!

Being positive and constructive, rather than negative, in your communication with colleagues brings harmony at the workplace

Colleagues in officeDo you say “please” when you want something or “thank you” when you get what you’ve asked for? These two simple words can make the difference between a team that’s thriving and one that’s just surviving. When team members stop being polite to one another, it is as if a wall begins to grow between them.

Remember, how careful you were with each other when you began your career? Being polite was part of the energy that helped you to build your career in this arena. It’s such a simple thing, yet so easily forgotten.

Leaders, who say they have great relationships with team members, point out simple politeness as one of the reasons for their success. The act of asking a team member if they need something you know will help them, is an example of the kind of behaviour I’m suggesting. It makes business relationships flourish, because it says to your team mates, “I’m here for you.”

If you’ve let your politeness fade, recovering it is as simple as saying “thank you,” the next time a team member does something good for the company. Not overlooking the little things makes a big difference to creating strong team relationships.

If you feel that your team members have forgotten how to be polite, remind him or her how by first setting the example. If they don’t get it the first time or two, be a little patient and explain that it’s a way that s/he can say they’re on the same team.

Say “thank you”

Saying “thank you” when any member of your company team takes the extra step to show they care is the appropriate response. Say it any time someone goes out of their way to help you. This act of politeness will be returned by the team member staying a little late, or doing a little more. It’s all about finding those places where you can give your team members a little extra energy. These random acts of kindness have a powerful effect on team relationships, and if you have any doubt, try it. Any action towards more caring will be rewarded and returned.

If you think saying “thank you” is old-fashioned or overused, and you want to be original, try saying it in a different language, or in slang. For example, in England, people say “ta,” or “cheers,” instead of thanks. In French it’s “merci,” and in Spanish it’s “gracias.”

Whatever your method, acknowledging your team members for what they do for the company [and, for you] is a way of keeping that relationship balanced and healthy.

Once you see how well this works, you’ll be thanking me!

Don’t blame, or complain

Communicating to a team member can be more dependent on how you say “it” rather than what it is you say. If you blame, shame or complain, your team mate could get defensive and not be able to take in what it is you are trying to tell him or her.

When someone feels blamed, s/he can immediately go into denial about what you are trying to share. For many people, feeling blamed takes them right back to childhood and s/he will choose to ignore the problem, get over-sensitive, or become angry. Telling staffers how you feel without blaming will help engage them in resolving the issue rather than confusing it, or having things escalate into an argument.

Blaming is also a way of avoiding responsibility. Making any issue as someone else’s fault takes away the opportunity you have to correct a negative action and grow from the experience. If you want to be the team member and also the person you can be, own your behaviours. It is also wise to remember that there are such things as honest mistakes, and, for those, forgiveness is the key.

Avoid shaming

Shaming someone is one of the most ineffective and destructive means of getting your way, or avoiding an issue. I actually think it borders on emotional abuse. When a person feels shamed s/he becomes disempowered and is no longer participating in the discussion. Instead of looking to solve a problem, the shamed individual devolops feelings of guilt and not being good enough. Colleagues feel weak and are not able to give their best, when others are shaming.

Shaming behaviour can include name-calling, belittling, bullying, comparing one person to another, or using foul language. Treating a team member in this way will not get you what you want; it will only serve to further alienate him, or her, from you. If you are hurt or angry with a team mate, tell them so without adding fuel to the fire. A straight-forward approach will help you accomplish so much more than a shaming, or negative remark, will.

Complaints are universal in life, but how you complain can be the difference between a caring team mate and one that could care less. An important part of a healthy working relationship is letting your team members know that changes are needed . Doing it without anger, or attitude, is the sign of a mature leader.

Explaining how your team mate’s behaviour makes you uncomfortable and how s/he could do things differently is far more effective than just harping about what seems wrong, or raising your voice to get your point across. Most people are receptive to gentle, positive suggestions. If you haven’t tried it in a while, give it a shot. You may be surprised at how well a little tact works.

Blaming, shaming and complaining are ineffective tools when it comes to building a positive working environment. Put them away and use your best communication cornerstones instead. They often work.

General Workplace Manners


  • Smile and greet co-workers in passing
  • Respect the personal space of individuals. Standing about 40 cm away is a reasonable distance for conversation
  • Observe company practices in relation to courtesy titles. Polite individuals address older people and those with higher rank by “Mr,” “Mrs,” or “Ms”; but this practice depends on the company’s culture
  • Contribute your fair share for office treats, gifts, or housekeeping duties
  • Remember that “please” and “thank you” are always appropriate
  • Strive to make doctor and dental appointments for the beginning or end of the day. Ask whether you can make up the time by working late or during the lunch hour.


  • Address people as “Hon,” “Dear,” “Son,” “Doll,” or “Babe” in the workplace or on the telephone
  • Be overly familiar with peers or superiors. Avoid back-slapping, nudging, hugging, elbowing, or other touching that implies intimacy
  • Put your briefcase or papers on someone else’s desk or table.
  • Act like a storm trooper in reacting to smoking or smoke-permeated clothing. If you want someone to put out a cigarette, ask politely
  • Enter the closed office of a co-worker or superior. Decide whether your business is important enough to interrupt the individual by knocking on the door
  • Discuss problematic topics. Avoid religion, politics, health, dieting, personal problems, and the cost of anything not work-related
  • Assume that you can take home small supplies from your workplace. No matter how entitled you feel, it is thievery.
Barton Goldsmith
Dr Barton Goldsmith, PhD, an award-winning and highly sought-after keynote speaker, business consultant and internationally syndicated author, has helped develop creative and balanced leadership in several Fortune 500 companies, educational institutions, and government organisations worldwide. He lives in California, USA.


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