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Respectful Communication Driving ‒ The Employee Experience

Written by: Teresa Hand-Campbell, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 

Incessant change has become the only certainty in the world of work, bringing with it the new language of agility, adaptability, grit and resilience as the human grapples with retaining and advancing his position while keeping pace with technological advancement which defies the imagination and drives the human response.

Fluidity in working arrangements and in the choice of tools used to achieve heightened connection and productivity, render it more important than ever to nurture the human connection as central to the employee experience. While multiple forms of ‘communication’ have been enabled, it could be argued that the richness of communication synonymous with face to face encounters and exchanges may be the casualty of modern organisational advancement.


Central to workplace response to C-19 lockdowns and enforced WFH was the facilitation of effective communication, collaboration to ensure ongoing productivity and connection to avert isolation. The narrative shared around employee experience and innovative ways to ensure sustained effectiveness during this period, at once became the blueprint for change going forward while lending impetus to ‘communication’ in all its facets as the distinguishing strength of successful organisations. Communication ensured employees were informed, enjoyed the continued social interaction and sustained productivity.


A light has shone on the web of interactions between leaders, managers, staff, stakeholders and clients.


Heightened awareness of possible sources of disharmony or dissatisfaction at work during C-19 now serves to inform workforce relations, irrespective of chosen work arrangements.

  • Self

  • Team functionality

  • Communication styles

  • Leadership capacity

  • Leader-follower alignment

  • Individual differences

  • Ambition-Competency incongruence

  • Intergenerational spread

  • Workplace culture

  • Understanding of performance expectations

Equipping yourself for effectiveness might best start with endeavouring to see yourself as others see you. We must be aware of self-perception and how, under certain conditions, others may perceive our behaviour. Self-awareness, our actions, interactions and reactions impact goal achievement, team success and our levels of influence.


The impact of automation and digitisation on employees is inestimable in terms of connectivity, choice of work arrangements and work-life integration in a world that is always ‘turned on.


Do the gains of hybrid working arrangements outweigh the losses, to the human?


As yet a story remains to be scripted as to the possible fallout of shifting work arrangements for communication, relationship building, motivation, engagement and ultimately, employee wellbeing.


The role of the Occupational Coaching Psychologist takes on a new significance when viewed through the lens of the modern workplace in flux


How does one make meaning of change and the cultural transformation it brings? Dialogue is a stream of meaning flowing among, through and between us’ (Bohm, 1990) which generates understanding, teamwork, learning and trust and which ultimately leads to resolving conflicts that may arise. (In Cloke, 2001, p. 175). Four forms of dialogue enacted in workplaces guide a solution-driven process – establishing what is wrong, what is true, what is possible and what is going to happen?


Such dialogic practice in organisational culture facilitates intelligent choices through people communicating what they can and cannot do. While the transactional lends itself to communication at a distance, personal reactions to change and problem-solving are, by nature, intensely interpersonal.


What can be done virtually and what must be done face to face?


What is nurtured or diminished by each approach?


Technological-hosted communication fails to capture the nuances of face to face exchange; the future of dialogue as a tool for problem-solving and portrayal of individual thought processing is being challenged by algorithms designed to constructively polarise opinion while endangering debate and synthesis facilitated by face-to-face conversation. In this sense, not alone is dependence on technology as a means of communication, socially destructive, it endangers free-thinking, problem-solving and man’s ability to function culturally. Exposing our young to the richness of divergent ideas and possibilities for problem-solving through face-to-face communication trumps ‘attention’ sapping dependence on digital mediums.


How important is communication to the future success of organisations?

While ‘developing the next generation of leaders’ ranked highest on the list of CEO Top Challenges in Global Leadership Forecast 2021 (DDI, 2021), interaction skills identified as key for next-gen Leaders included ‘communicating and interacting with others (53%) and ‘demonstrating empathy and emotional intelligence (47%). Bearing in mind that millennials, Gen Z and Gen Alpha will account for over 70% of the global workforce by 2029, recognising the need for more help growing communication and interaction skills, aligned with the need to develop empathy, remains uppermost to human interaction in the workplace.


Employee expectations have shifted, with the increasing value being placed on meaningful work, professional development opportunities, connection, diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), work-life integration, flexibility and ESG, as a performance indicator. One constant remains, however nurturing communication, collaboration and relationship building between employees, stakeholders and clients, irrespective of location and means/mode of working. While we enjoy increased productivity which is aligned with emerging technologies, processes and limitless communication tools, the challenge of bridging the gap between the ‘virtual human’ of the digital world and the ‘real human’ of face to face on-site presence, is gaining urgency.

A thriving workplace culture that embraces trust, psychological safety and employee agency, is integral to the vibrancy of the psychological contract which galvanises the employee experience. Harmonisation of approaches to communication across the workforce, on-site hybrid WFH therefore, is vital to building a culture to grow and thrive. Creating that ‘sense of belonging’ in the workplace spans the creation of a psychologically safe space, checking in with people, personally and professionally, giving those who feel ignored a voice, celebrating self-identity, being offered opportunities for input and being encouraged to initiate employee-led communities.

Authenticity, as the driver of respectful communication, is the currency of a soulful employee experience, on-site and from afar. Ensuring that the “we” of employee experience retain precedence over the “I”, demands attention. Authenticity is ‘the alignment of head, mouth, heart and feet – thinking, saying, feeling and doing the same thing – consistently. This builds trust. (Lance Secretan)


Approaches to cultivating respectful communication with colleagues, irrespective of working arrangements, must be consistently applied:

  • Communicate in a polite, courteous manner, using a warm and friendly tone, choosing language that is non-emotive and easily accessible to all.

  • Invite employees to contribute and share their points of view.

  • Always listen to team members’ opinions before expressing your own.

  • Avoid interrupting others during a conversation, always be mindful of your choice of words and tone.

  • Never admonish others in public – best done in private and face to face.

  • Welcome subordinates’ ideas and suggestions, this garners interest, engagement and respect.

  • Offer micro recognitions for quality of work and successes achieved, however small. This nurtures further advancements and encourages innovation.

  • Finally, seek to bridge the gap between on-site and virtual working to optimise inclusion in all conversations and meetings.

Key Take-Aways:

  • Communication is pivotal to a healthy employee experience as it aids feeling informed, socially connected and productive.

  • An awareness of possible sources of disharmony and dissatisfaction informs working relations, irrespective of work arrangements.

  • Balancing the gains and losses of hybrid working arrangements is a work in progress, with what can be done virtually and what must be done face to face emerging as a key consideration.

  • The future of dialogue is being challenged by algorithms designed to polarise opinions which ultimately endangers debate facilitated by face to face conversation. Authenticity matters.

  • The creation of a psychologically safe workplace is facilitated by regular conscious communication speaking and listening and is integral to the psychological contract between employer and employee.

  • Respect is best modelled in the employee-manager relationship which creates a good work environment and increases employees’ engagement, motivation, job satisfaction and productivity.

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Teresa Hand-Campbell, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Teresa Hand-Campbell is the founder and Director of THC Consultancy Ltd., an Ireland-based company with a global reach. As Occupational Psychologist, Educationist, Business Executive Coach and certified Mediator, she educates, motivates and inspires her clients on their journey to achieving optimum potential.


Teresa specialises in all aspects of behaviour, relations, motivation and engagement at work, facilitating executive coaching, training, teamwork, career progression, recruitment drives, action mapping and strategic planning with organisations, large and small, across both private and public sectors. She has successfully coached over 400 Senior Executives and continues to lecture to Master's level in Leadership & Management in the Workplace. A WRAW Master Practitioner (Workplace Resilience And Wellbeing), Teresa is also a multi-science analyst using DISC and is a registered Test User (1 & 2) with the British Psychological Society.


A keynote speaker, Teresa delivers inspiring bespoke Talks and Training to audiences of all sizes around key topics of interest to the workplace.

A prolific writer, her most recent Case Study and bespoke Recommendations, entitled: ‘Building a Culture to Grow & Thrive’ was undertaken for Catalyst Clinical Research, a large, multi-award winning clinical development organisation with headquarters in Wilmington, North Carolina, USA. Teresa’s motto: ‘Knowing ME: Understanding YOU’ rests on her belief that to know oneself is to ensure a true understanding of others we come in contact with.

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