The Keys to Effective Communication in the Workplace

Over the last few months I’ve written extensively about communication in the workplace and I figured that I would combine my recent posts into an article with major take-aways. I hope this will be useful.

In a recent study of more than 1,400 employees surveyed by Salesforce 86% cited a lack of communication and collaboration as the primary reason for workplace failures.

Below are some simple tips for effective verbal communication in the workplace.

  • Be concise –Keep it short and clear. Don’t repeat yourself, and use as many details as appropriate.
  • Get to the point – If there is a reason for a particular conversation it should come out immediately.
  • No Jargon – Use real words with proper meanings
  • Make it matter – If what you’re talking about has something to do with the person that you are talking to, you should make the connection right after you get to the point.
  • Sugar free – If there is something bad that you need to say, just say it, don’t BS, don’t sugarcoat.
  • Don’t be a naysayer – Don’t disagree with people until you understand what they are talking about. Before you say “no-this is stupid” you should ask plenty of questions.

Sometimes, however, words aren’t enough, according to the International Journal of Communication we consume, on average, 34 gigabytes (or 100,500 words) of information outside of work on an average day, and research from the University of Southern California shows that we receive 5x more information today as we did in 1986.

In today’s world of information overload our brains can only process and understand so much.

For example according to researchers at the California State University at Fullerton on average people remember about:

  • 10% of what they hear
  • 20% of what they read


  • 80% of what they see and do

Showing is more crucial now days than it has ever been – here are some practical tips for effectively using images and presentations.

Culture – Before you create your visuals, make sure that you understand your audience.

  • Be Creative – Your audience has seen a lot of horrible clip-art and way too many pictures of cross-cultural handshakes. Try to use creative, clever approaches with your imagery, and look for photographs or illustrations that tell a story in a less obvious and more memorable way.
  • Make it Easy – If it’s too hard for a 7th grader to understand put it in a hand out – not into the presentation. Handouts will allow your audience to look at data closely. This is especially important when you’re presenting to analytical people: they tend to be skeptical about data and complicated processes. A handout will let them have a closer look, and a more “personal” relationship with the data.
  • Make it Simple – Slides should focus on one idea or concept. Each slide you make should take three seconds or fewer to process. If it takes longer, the slide is too complex.
  • Consistency – Pick a font and a color palate and stick with it. There is never a need to use multiple fonts or more than 3 colors.

It’s always tempting to say too much in hopes of explaining everything more thoroughly, but often the more you say the less people hear. It’s noteworthy that if we take the latest research into account a picture is worth closer to 5 thousand words.


  1. Avatar Pawas   •  

    Hi Michael, do you think humor plays a vital role in communication at workplace?

  2. Avatar Michael Burtov   •     Author

    Pawas, great point – humor is absolutely crucial to an organization’s/team’s social dynamics and culture.

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