What is Effective Communication in the Workplace?

Using effective communication in a business environment is one of the best ways to motivate and engage employees.

A common myth about effective communication is that it makes people do things they do not agree with or want to do. Communicating and influence are not about deceiving someone against their will.

Communicating effectively builds trust. It gets people to say “yes” because they see the value in what you are saying and because they trust you. It’s not a sales or marketing campaign and it is not about being a sycophant or an authoritarian to get something you want.

Instead, effective communication uses invisible means — or a mix of the fundamentals of communication and persuasion techniques — to make a change in others.

How Should We Define Effective Communication?

First, let’s define both words in Effective Communication

Effective means, “successful in producing a desired or intended result.”

Immediately, we see that “effective” means that we want to achieve something. We want something to happen. We want someone to do something.

Our other word — communication — means, “exchanging information or news.”

What is Effective Communication?

Effective communication is when a person wants the desired outcome by sharing key information or news. The purpose of sharing this information is to influence others to achieve a goal or result.

This is much different from small talk with your colleague or boss. When we communicate effectively, we want someone else to do something. We want other people to change their behavior.

Setting a clear goal or clearly understanding what you want from the outcome of communication is critical.

How Can You Improve Good Communication in the Workplace?

Do you ever say something to a business partner without knowing what you want them to do?

Sometimes we have an idea. It’s jumbled in our head and we are not sure how it specifically relates to our audience or the person we are talking to. Often we do not know what we want them to do.

Our business colleague, manager, or employees leave our meeting unsure of what we want them to do. Any time we produce uncertainty, we also produce anxiety and skepticism.

Research suggests that the more specific you can make the action you want others to do, the more influential it becomes. It’s a way you can begin building trust. The more the listener can visualize the task, the more they will be willing to do it.

To get the desired result, one of the first places you must start is by defining the action.

Nine times out of ten, our ask is simple. However, if it is portrayed unclearly, then your audience will automatically be skeptical. Skepticism is bad. Skepticism from a listener most often occurs when you are unclearly communicating.

Communicating as the Boss

When you’re the boss, effective communication helps you influence and change the people who report to you and others in the company.

Have you ever had a communication that was unclear from your boss? It’s difficult to know what action you should take. You are left feeling uncertain about which way to proceed, and if you don’t have the clarity you might even have anxiety associated with the actions you plan on taking.

That is not effective at all.

When you’re the one reporting to a boss, the way you speak is just as critical. It should help your boss see that what you do has value and it should show your boss where he or she can support you.

If you cannot say these things clearly, you’ll have little support for your ideas.

What’s more, from an evolutionary perspective, humans are designed to constantly scan for things that can harm them. We take this natural instinct to work with us. If we see something unclear, chances are we will think it is dangerous and risky if we do not understand it.

What kind of action should we have people do?

First, the intended result we want people to do has nothing to do with feelings. It’s about the action people take after they hear your message.

When we consult, it never fails that someone will say, “I just want my audience to be informed;” or, “I want them to feel” energized, happy, anxiety.

These feelings or states of being are not actions. And you will not be influential if you go for them.

You might use feelings to get people to act. However, feelings or a state of being should not be the outcome you want from your messages.

Your message should help your audience understand why the action you want them to take is important.

In corporate America, internal communication campaigns should almost always be associated with driving some type of metric. If you’re in human resources and you need to get people to take training, then your communication plan’s goal should be to move the adoption rate.

There is a direct link between action in an organization and a communication plan.

Barriers to Effective Communication Skills

Your Audience

Often, our audience’s attention span can block us from getting our point across. We explain this in our blog post: How to lose your audience when public speaking.

The point, however, is that if we are not speaking clearly and there is the need to interpret what we say, then bye-bye. You lost your audience.

Your Message

The way you say what you are communicating is one of the most critical aspects you have seen with your interaction with other people.

If you are an expert known for your technical skills or you have deep domain expertise in your business, you already have built-in trust.

However, the moment you speak in a way that is confusing to others, you lose that credibility.

Your Context

We’ve also found that context is important. You can provide the context in a meaningful way, which we described above. It’s also how we portray or frame the context.

When working with a new team, almost everyone will say how important it is to give the proper context. Very few will say that they need to get the proper context from their audience.

It’s important to understand the context your audience has. This is much easier to do in an internal communication setting because we know who we want to influence.

This is much more difficult with marketing because we don’t know specific names, we just have an idea of who we are speaking to. Often marketers call this a client avatar.

If you do not understand your audience’s context, you will not be able to communicate effectively.

Here are four key characteristics of effective communication.

  1. You need to have clarity on the topic you are communicating. When I say clarity, I mean being able to say your topic in 70 characters.
  2. You need to know your audience and offer a recommendation or call to action.
  3. You need to tell your audience why they (or the business) will have the advantage by following your recommendation.
  4. Your communication needs to be crystal clear, without the use of jargon or words that make you sound smart.

Remember, effective means you are going for a specific result. Communication is sharing important information. If what you are sharing does not have a clear call to action, is not important, or does not change behavior, then it is not effective communication.

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