Ongoing instances of communication breakdown are not pretty. In a workplace where employees are from different geographic locations, a developed sense of trust and interdependence is important. Continuous instances of miscommunication and confusion are likely to threaten this key ingredient necessary for team efforts.
Clear communication in the global workforce requires not only careful attention to speaking, but also to listening. The act of listening involves paying attention to clues. Some are linguistic in nature. The stressed words in a sentence can assist the listener in understanding the meaning of a sentence, or the connections from one sentence to the next. Other speaker clues (or cues) are contextual in nature. One speaker of English, for example, may place intended meaning on what is not said, and expect the listener to comprehend accordingly. Culture plays a role here. How one says ‘no’ in one culture may not be heard by one from a different culture. One’s listening habits are influenced by one’s culture.
How one listens is just as important as how one speaks when working with others. It’s critical to be able to detect instances of communication breakdown, and address the situation in a constructive manner. This is more likely to strengthen the sense of trust and interdependence that may be momentarily in jeopardy.
- Constantly check for understanding. If possible, attempt doing this on the spot. If you walk out of a meeting or finish a telephone call, and realize that you’re unclear about something discussed, send an email and ask for clarification
- Develop cultural intelligence for interacting in the global workforce. Communication style is partly determined by cultural values and assumptions. Learn about and attempt to understand the differences rather than react. Ask questions.
- Make accommodating adjustments when running a meeting if need be. How a meeting is conducted may be influenced by how its participants view the following:
- The goals or purpose of the meeting
- Power distance and hierarchy
- Priority of ‘we’ vs. ‘I’
- Appropriateness of expressing disagreement or negative feedback
Communication is a two-way street
Doesn’t it make sense that each employee needs to develop an awareness of how he or she speaks and listens, especially when working with colleagues who are from different geographic locations? This, I believe, is key for developing positive work relationships.