Whether you’re a corporate giant towering over the masses or a new startup barely crawling, you communicate every single day. With your spouse as you leave for work, with commuters on the train, with the guy you buy your hot dog from. But mostly, you communicate with your employees.
Here is a list of tips for interacting with all employees, both in your building and out in the world.
Pay attention to body language.
Take note of a person’s equilibrium state (at lunch or just hanging out) and when they’re working. Learn to recognize stress levels and reactions so you know when you should approach them and when you might want to hold off.
Schedule ‘non-transactional’ meeting time.
Even if it’s only 15 minutes a day, make it clear to your employees that they are more to you than request-granting machines. We don’t recommend becoming best friends, but business has a better chance of thriving when employees know they can talk to you as a person, not just a boss.
Communicate in writing.
Email, text message, Post-It, whatever- write it out and include dates and times that the request was made. This is important so that the employee knows what’s expected and you know what was said. It also allows you to send messages without pulling them away from their work stations.
Use voice and video calls.
Meaning can often be misconstrued in the written word, and what may seem to you as the writer might be interpreted as all hell about to break loose to your reader. Use voice and video calls occasionally to establish a more personal connection.
Don’t be afraid to use emojis or gifs.
Though you might think it feels silly at first, some people are just bad at wording in emails. A well-placed emoji (in reasonable quantities) can completely shoot the conversation over to the other side of the emotional spectrum.
Use online systems such as Slack, HipChat, Viber, Flowdock, Campfire, or Skype to keep in contact. Some bosses fear the outlet for wandering minds, but these chat platforms allow employees to talk to each other in real time. Not only can it address emergency issues immediately, but the fluidity can foster better relationships than the turtle-pace of emails. Establish a codeword that exclusively means: “please don’t get offended, but I need to focus my undivided attention on this task right now.” Suggestions: ‘pirate ship,’ ‘hammer time,’ or ‘magnifying glass.’
*Sandbox Suites recently started using Slack as our main means of off-site communication. We can categorize our discussions into groups such as ‘marketing’ or ‘general’ and easily search all conversations for that one line from last Tuesday morning. (Their emoji selection is also pretty fantastic.)
Limit industry jargon.
Using acronyms and slang may make things more efficient for you, but for the employee, it may put a drag on productivity if they’re trying to figure out what the heck “Supes in the weeds this mrn, get TAJR report on M’s ASAP” means.
Open Door Policy
Make sure everyone knows the lines of communication are open. Employees who are afraid to disappoint or anger their bosses are less likely to communicate information. Reward them for good ideas and encourage them to ask questions. Projects take a lot less time when a wrong direction gets nipped in the bud.
Use simple words and avoid unnecessary repetition. Nobody likes a dead horse, and nobody likes to hear it beaten.