Workplace Communication

In an era of Casual Fridays and work-from-home colleagues, how can you maintain effective office communication in a changing business climate?

We’ll steer you through changes in business etiquette, and help you successfully navigate through the new realities of workplace conflict and office politics.

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Question:  “I often feel like an outsider in my office.  I am 61 years old, slightly overweight, and have gray hair. All my co-workers are in their 20’s and 30’s. The whole group goes out for “happy hour” once every six weeks. My boss’s boss came up with this idea, and he always attends. I usually avoid these get-togethers, because I don’t feel comfortable with the youngsters. Recently, a good friend said that this is a mistake. She believes my colleagues and managers will think that I’m snubbing them. I had a pretty good time at one happy hour, but I’ve skipped the last two.  Do you think I should start going?” — Old & Gray

The South by Southwest festivals and conferences each spring feature many experts, some of whom are not expert speakers. One of them, Thom Singer, has written a book, The ABC’s of Speaking, geared especially for the shy expert. He has six recommendations:

It’s easy to have your good mood shattered by a nasty customer, an out-of-the-blue criticism or a computer system that refuses to cooperate. Think of angry customers as a creativity test. Satisfy them without letting their discontent bring you down. Four tips:

When the Chicago offices of marketing agency Upshot burned down, some of the employees spent a year working out of a local bar. Safely ensconced in new digs, the staff still likes to drink together—so they tap a keg in the office at 5:30 p.m. on the third Thursday of each month. It's part of the perks conceived by a group of employees who call themselves “Pulse,” which recommends ways the company can liven things up.

Courage is a slippery concept but, like art, we know it when we see it. Author Harriet Rubin defines courage as a virtue that allows us to face real risk. Rubin divides courage into components, noting that you never know who’s going to deliver and who will crack under pressure:

When dashing off your next memo, report or e-mail, cut right to the core points. Readers see your writing as a reflection of how you think, so keep it direct and logical.

It’s become a reality-show catchphrase: “I’m not here to make friends.” The implication is that to win, you can’t afford to treat people generously. Will you go further by being cutthroat or collaborative? Let’s look at the data:

If you manage a team that’s stuck in a rut or not working up to its full potential, it may have nothing to do with the drive and talent of the participants. They all may want to succeed and be giving 100% effort, but the results can still disappoint. The problem could be conflict—not too much, but too little.

Workplace noise is a pet peeve for one in five employees, and it can even damage productivity. But is it a peeve worth escalating to human resources? Most HR workers would say that employees should resolve the noisy co-worker issue on their own.