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Top Five Ways to Improve Communication and Teamwork in the Office

Fri, 11/09/2012 - 4:26pm | by Guest Contributor

Our understanding of communication and teamwork in the office has grown by leaps and bounds in the last few decades. Professors at top-tier universities like Northwestern and Syracuse have conducted groundbreaking studies about how communication and teambuilding affect productivity and profit.

Businesses across every field spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on teambuilding retreats and communication seminars. Floor managers bring in high-paid speakers to help enact communication improvement plans in their offices. What these higher-ups understand is that office culture isn't just a human resources issue; communication and teamwork affects a company's bottom line in a very direct and appreciable way.

So what are the best ways to improve the culture in your office?

1) Open door policies

One of the biggest barriers to open communication in the office is the intense, hierarchical structure of most American companies. So much of office politics is entirely unspoken. The corner office, the upper floor, the closed doors - these are all signs that one member of the team is higher than another. Underlings are conditioned to feel as if they shouldn't speak until spoken to. If you want to improve communication in the office then you have to take the initiative. Level the playing field. Encourage your employees to talk to each other and to talk to you.

2) Build trust

Open communication isn't enough. Removing hierarchical dams is a great start, but increased communication is of little value if that communication isn't genuine. To foster honest communication you need to build trust in the office. You can take the first step towards building a trusting relationship with your employees by doing away with untrusting policies and practices. Get rid of the time clocks and the web blockers. Unless there's a legal issue you should stop monitoring employee emails as well. If your colleagues and employees feel like they are trusted then they can begin to trust you.

3) Go on a retreat

It doesn't have to be an overly involved, weeklong conference in Vegas. You can host an effective team-building retreat right in the comfort of your home office. Suspend work for an afternoon and assemble the whole team in the conference room. Just a few hours of exercises and discussion can go a long way. If you aren't confident in your ability to lead the retreat, hire an expert. As discussed above, there are several experts who have made their careers in the field of teamwork and communication.

4) Don't punish people for speaking hard truths

Once your employees begin to feel comfortable communicating honestly, they may have a few critiques. Take all constructive criticism seriously and never punish a worker for a good faith effort to speak his or her mind.

5) Further your own education

There are several programs offered in team building and office communications. If you're serious about improving communication in your office in an appreciable way, consider some higher education. You don't need an expensive, full time degree to learn a few tricks of the trade. You can earn a Masters in communication online from a program tailored to your managerial needs.

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