Is your internal communication style impacting engagement and productivity? Discover how, and find out what needs to change.
Internal communicators don’t need to be told how fundamental great workplace communication is when it comes to employee experience and business success. However, there are several different communication styles that people and organizations tend to use and each has its own unique characteristics. Some of those characteristics are exactly what a happy, engaged, and productive organization demands, while others are less than ideal for business settings.
What is your internal communication style?
So how well do you know the four different styles of communication? Discover the characteristics that should be celebrated and those that should be avoided by clicking your answer option below each set of bullet points.
Internal communication style #1
- Expresses thoughts and feelings in a direct and honest way
- Avoids being aggressive or passive
- Presents self as confident and self-assured
- Stands up for beliefs without being confrontational
Internal communication style #2
- Avoids confrontation and expresses thoughts and feelings indirectly
- Tends to be shy and hesitant
- May have difficulty standing up for beliefs
- Has a tendency to let others control the conversation and make decisions
Internal communication style #3
- Expresses thoughts and feelings in a forceful or confrontational way
- Can dominate conversations
- Prone to anger
- May have difficulty listening to others or considering their perspectives
Internal communication style #4
- Expresses thoughts and feelings indirectly, often through subtle sarcasm
- Tend to be indirect
- Tendency to hold grudges
So, how many answers did you get right? It’s clear that only one of the communication styles featured in this quiz is appropriate at work. Read on to find out why that’s the case, and how you can make sure you’re always communicating in a positive way that doesn’t rattle your colleagues.
The importance of getting your style right
We all expect to be communicated with in ways that don’t belittle, offend, or patronize, but the impact of a misjudged communication style actually goes beyond this. The ways that organizations communicate with employees, and how those employees communicate with each other, both have a direct correlation with our engagement and productivity.
Gallup’s 2022 State of the Global Workplace Report revealed that workplace disengagement equates to a staggering $7.8 trillion productivity loss, yet engaged employees are almost 20% more productive than disengaged colleagues.
Put simply, good communication drives employee engagement while poor communication can inhibit engagement. To cultivate an engaged and productive workforce, organizations must take a close look at how they’re communicating with their people. In turn, this can influence how employees communicate with one another.
How to be an assertive communicator
It’s clear that assertiveness is what we should all be striving for when it comes to communicating at work. While we all do our best to communicate in a respectful way, these simple tips can help us all keep our communication styles in check:
#1. Be clear and direct in your language and messaging. Avoid ambiguity and confusing wording, and get to the point quickly and concisely. In written or visual communications, avoid lengthy paragraphs of text, and if a message is lengthy, break it up with images and graphics. It helps to have an intranet that allows you to build media-rich content with ease.
#2. Assertiveness requires confidence. If you’re not a naturally confident person, just remember that confidence is often a matter of perspective and can be built over time with practice and effort. By putting on a confident front – even if you’re not feeling it – and reminding yourself that you are capable, you can begin to build your confidence and inject more assertiveness into your communication style.
#3. Understand the difference between assertiveness and aggression. Assertiveness is about communicating clearly and authoritatively, but also being as respectful as possible. Aggression, on the other hand, is about imposing your will on others and disregarding their feelings.
#4. Be open to feedback and willing to compromise. While assertiveness requires you to be authoritative, that sense of authority doesn’t mean you’re beyond listening to the thoughts and ideas of those you’re communicating with.
#5. Assertive communication is as much about listening as it is about telling. As your organization’s internal spokesperson, it’s important to listen actively and acknowledge employees’ perspectives. This will help you as a communicator and the senior leadership to understand employees’ needs and concerns, and find common ground. Rather than relying solely on top-down comms, make sure your employees have a voice by enabling two-way communications. Even if you’re communicating through a channel where it is difficult for your people to respond, it’s worth directing them to a channel where they can.
Internal communication styles for different audiences
With multiple audiences working together within organizations, including different generations, departments, job functions, and locations, it’s essential to make sure that your internal communications resonate with every employee. All too easily you can hone your communication style to one employee persona while unwittingly alienating others.
Let’s take a look at a couple of examples:
Adapting internal communications for different generations
At a recent event hosted by Interact, a quarter of attendees surveyed said they find Gen-Z employees the hardest to communicate with. That’s interesting, but not massively surprising. What is surprising is that data gathered from across our events this year reveals that comms professionals find both Gen-Z and Baby Boomers are the toughest to communicate with.
This is where having a multichannel communications strategy (and a multichannel intranet software to support it) can make a real difference. Being able to easily segment your audience into personas such as the generations they belong to, and creating separate messaging strands for each of them is hugely beneficial. For example, one message with the same intent can be written in different ways to suit each generation in your workforce, and delivered to each generation through the comms channel they’re most active on.
If you’re not yet able to segment your audience, or you just need to send a blanket communication to all generations, the importance of using inclusive language cannot be overstated. Inclusivity is something every comms professional needs to take into account when it comes to refining their communication style, and it helps to have digital tools that support this.
Communicators using intranets built on Interact’s software have access to a built-in inclusive language editor which identifies and flags potentially non-inclusive language, removing the stress from creating content that speaks to all users.
Adapting internal communications for different employee groups
A typical manufacturing organization has office-based staff working at desks, people working in research and development facilities with access to devices that can receive internal comms, and a large percentage of deskless employees in production facilities, warehouses, and logistics. Employees across these functions will be from different generations, likely work in different locations, and potentially speak different languages.
Employees in each of the granular segments we just listed will have their own expectations of how they receive internal communications, when they receive them, and the communication style they’re delivered in. Meeting these expectations may seem complicated, but this is one of the many internal communications challenges that the right choice of modern intranet software can solve. Again, this is where the ability to create multiple personas to receive separate variations of the same message in different styles can be invaluable.
Just think of these personas as dynamic user groups that allow your internal comms team to group employees by multiple criteria. Messaging for each of these user groups can then be tailored and deployed via multiple different channels from one location on your intranet. Remember the typical manufacturing organization from a couple of paragraphs ago that had a significant number of deskless workers? They can even be reached via digital signage built into the intranet. Employees can even interact with digital signage by scanning on-screen QR codes which direct them to explore the content further via their personal devices.
An assertive communication style is essential for communicating with employees in a clear and respectful manner that facilitates honest and open two-way conversations. In turn, this can help to improve engagement and productivity. However, honing assertive communications for different internal audiences may be a challenge in enterprise-scale organizations, but this is where modern intranet software can provide the tools and channels that will allow your comms to resonate with every employee.