Effective Communication in the Workplace: A Shift Manager's Guide

by Sarah Niderost, 9 minutes read
HOME blog effective communication in the workplace shift managers guide

It’s Thursday night and your last customer left an hour ago. You clearly asked one of your employees to lock up for you — or at least you thought you did. Unfortunately, they didn’t understand so you have to double back to ensure everything is safely locked.

Communication is key to your business’s success — but how effectively are you actually communicating?

Read on to learn what effective communication in the workplace should look like. And the role of management in making this possible.

Why is effective communication in the workplace important?

effect communication at work

Effective communication is critical, no matter the industry you're in. It can be the difference between ensuring a patient's well-being or putting someone at risk.

So what does that mean in real life?

A restaurant might have a team of servers, cooks, and hostesses. If the team members aren't alerting one another about new customers and orders, things will get chaotic pretty quickly. In the end, you'll have frustrated staff and displeased customers.

And it can be worse in more complex settings, such as a hospital. If staff and management aren't communicating across departments, patient care might suffer. Imagine two nurses giving a patient the same medication back-to-back. Or no one notifying the ER doctor of a patient waiting for immediate assistance.

While communication in the workplace isn't always life-threatening, it can hurt your business operations. When your teams and managers aren't communicating efficiently, it leads to redundancies and incomplete tasks.

In other words, it could potentially hurt the customer experience, team chemistry, and your bottom line.

What are the benefits of efficient communication in the workplace?

Efficient communication reduces misunderstandings and improves productivity. Confusion can slow down your operations and impact your bottom line.

But communication isn’t just about numbers. Good communication also creates a healthy work culture. There's a sense of team spirit when everyone's working towards a common goal.

With proper communication, your teams have clear direction and seamless collaboration. This promotes higher employee job satisfaction, which decreases the odds of turnover. In turn, your company will see long-term productivity, which can boost profits and customer satisfaction.

What makes effective workplace communication?

As team leader, you want to ensure your workplace is running efficiently. And part of this requires everyone to communicate efficiently. But what does this look like?

Effective workplace communication happens when teams and managers send and receive messages accurately and on time. So the way you communicate and the tools or methods used will determine the efficiency of communications.

For example, you have a team that must work together to complete a goal or task. A system should be in place to make notifications quick and seamless. This requires having the right tools, consistency, and clarity.

You'll know communication is effective when your teams know what to do and when. And are always on the same page.

Next, let's review the qualities needed to make communication more effective.

What are the qualities of effective workplace communication?

workplace communication

Both the managers and employees should hone their workplace communication skills. So here's a look at what it takes to become a better communicator.


When you relay a message to an employee or colleague, they grasp it. And even better, you have facts and/or data to back up your argument or request. It's clear and complete, which rules out the possibility of mistakes.


It's critical to understand the ins and outs of team and department functions. This way, you can communicate with everyone in a way that's logical and well-thought-out. There should also be a clear connection with the main topic and a consistent flow. This way, your team understands what you're saying and why.


Giving out feedback, tasks, and instructions is pointless if you're communicating in an unclear way. Clarity ensures everyone understands what's required and the purpose. No one should have to assume what you meant to say or analyze what they think you mean.


Nothing kills the impact of a message like a contradiction. Be sure about what you're communicating to your teams. Switching up what you said earlier only leads to confusion and hurts trust in leadership.


Things can get hectic in the workplace, especially when it's a busy season in markets like retail and hospitality. But just because things are getting out of line doesn't mean your communications should too. Keep your messages, tone, and voice courteous and respectful.

What are some common barriers to effective communication?

healthcare communication

Communication barriers in the workplace are commonplace. But they don't have to be. Here's a look at communication dampers you may witness in your organization.

Not listening attentively

Have you ever tried speaking to someone who is engrossed in another task? They hear your voice, but they're not absorbing what you're saying.

For communication to work, both sides have to listen attentively. This means having your complete focus on the other person speaking.

Passing judgment too quickly

This is how conflicts arise. If managers and/or employees pass judgment before hearing everything, then odds are high it'll lead to an argument.

Ensure you and team members allow others to speak entirely to gather all information before making an assumption.

Poor body language

There's verbal communication. Then there's body language. And the latter speaks volumes about a person's thoughts and feelings.

For example, asking an employee about their problems then looking around disinterested makes your concern feel insincere. Pay attention to how you hold your body and remain respectful of the person you’re talking to.

Lack of trust and transparency

Managers need the trust of their team members. But this is difficult to gain when there's a lack of transparency. When you aren't upfront with your workers, it leads to anxiety, rumors, and distrust.

So be forthcoming and communicate regularly with your team. Even if what you have to say is bad news.

Different communication styles

This is more of a recent problem, especially as Gen Z workers are entering the workforce. You still have Baby Boomers in these organizations (some of which are managers). The disconnect in communication styles creates a barrier that hurts workplace relationships.

For example, some workers may prefer text and video chat. While others prefer email and phone.

Then the way you communicate can also cause division.

For example, some people are very direct in their delivery while others take some time to get to the point. Issues can arise with both types of individuals. A direct person may seem rude and someone who is indirect may appear secretive or untrustworthy. Learning to adapt to various communication styles is key to making a workplace efficient.

Cultural differences

If you work in a diverse company, then it's critical for leaders to learn and support cultural differences.

Being mindful of cultural differences will prevent you from violating beliefs and customs. A more diverse workplace can mean a more inclusive workplace, enabling your staff and customers to be more satisfied with their experience.

What is the role of managers in promoting effective communication?

communication in the workplace

The managers are like the trendsetters within the organization (or they should try to be). You're the lead communicator, so you have to instill positive communication skills in your teams.

Here's a look at how you can achieve this.

Establish reliable communication channels

Which channels will your teams use to stay connected? Will it include using email, texting, video, or two-way radios? Whatever you decide, there should be policies in place guiding usage.

This should include when and how to use the channels. For example, if email is a channel, then determine policies for when and who to CC. There should also be rules for when and how to use the communication tools appropriately to prevent overstepping boundaries.

Resolve communication problems

Is there a conflict between communication styles? Some may prefer instant messaging over email because they get overlooked in a sea of messages. Or maybe others prefer face-to-face over electronic communications. But others want written communication for accuracy and ease of tracking discussions.

Whatever the issue, it's up to you to find a solution that accommodates everyone.

Educate your teams on how to communicate

Shaping your team members into excellent communicators is a part of your role as manager. Some find it challenging to articulate their thoughts effectively. Consider training or mentoring workers struggling in this area. Workshops on public speaking are also beneficial.

Building interdepartmental relationships

It's common for teams within one department to communicate effectively. But when you're in an organization that requires cross-departmental collaboration, you need to ensure communication is practical.

One option is to employ tools that allow project sharing, discussions, and task assignment. In some organizations, Slack or an internal social hub does the job.

Make team-focused activities a priority to build relationships outside of just work.

How to improve communication in the workplace

communication with teams

Struggling to enhance communication among your teams? Then you may find the following strategies helpful.

Adopt a team communication app

This is useful whether you have in-house or remote teams. Having a special place to communicate ensures messages don't drown in a sea of emails and text messages.

Encourage two-way feedback

Giving feedback to workers is what managers do. But this shouldn't be a one-way street. Encourage your team to also give feedback so you can learn how you and the company can improve. Maybe they have concerns that need addressing or ideas for enhancing their productivity.

Create employee surveys

Want to receive suggestions and ideas for the future of the company? Then get everyone involved with employee surveys. Use this to gather insights (can be anonymous or open -- consider giving the option for both).

Allowing teams to offer input gives them a sense of inclusion. It also makes them feel valued.

Develop onboarding that helps newcomers assimilate

You developed a communication system that's efficient and proactive. Now, it's time to onboard new hires so they fit right into the communicative culture you helped develop. Do this by creating training videos and documentation. A Q&A forum or knowledge hub will also help them get up to speed faster.

Adopt an open-door policy

Transparency and trust are vital to making teams and management align. With an open-door policy, you can work on both. But what does it mean to have an open door? It means employees can come to you anytime to discuss a problem, ask a question, or offer feedback.

It's an excellent way to build connections and encourage meaningful dialogue between leaders and team members.

Align everyone with a common goal

Everyone within an organization is playing a role in helping the company thrive. So why not create a united front that aligns everyone? One option is to identify a common goal and everyone's role in accomplishing it.

It's a way to motivate and keep everyone on the same page. This works for uniting small teams and employees across various departments.

Build a culture around communication

Make communication the main focus of your work culture. Consider using employee engagement ideas to get workers to come together. For example, you can host happy hours (in-person or virtually). Or connect seasoned employees with new hires as mentors.

Get more ideas from your teams to see what they'd enjoy doing together.

Give employees time to recharge

It's difficult to communicate effectively when you're exhausted from working long hours. So give your team members time to relax and disconnect. This prevents burnout and promotes a healthy work-life balance.

Use a staff scheduling solution to manage everyone's schedule and enable workers to request time off.

Ready to build a workplace that values communication?

Start with identifying communication barriers in your organization. Eliminate them one by one and adopt communication strategies to promote collaboration and productivity.

Worried about burning out your employees? Then use Deputy to schedule and track timesheets to prevent this. It's a platform designed just for managers and team leaders.

Want to see how it can make your job easier? Then try Deputy for free today.

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