How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

Share on facebook
Share on google
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

You might spend 90% of your shift in complete isolation, confined to your cubicle and 30 feet away from your nearest coworker.

But communication is the lifeblood of any successful business.

Email threads.

In-person department meetings.

Casual chit-chat between coworkers.

Mastering communication is a solid start if you want to climb the ladder rung-by-rung and impress your higher-ups.

Take a look at these seven tips (and one bonus) to improve your communication skills for workplace success!

Learn [& Practice] Active Listening

One communication faux pas that we all commit is listening to respond instead of listening to understand. You’ve been on the receiving end at least once. 

Do you recall pouring your heart out on something that you were passionate about, only to get a response ignoring 90% of what you said?

Everyone wants to feel “heard.”

That’s why active listening is the #1 workforce communication skill.

Pay close attention to the complete message without letting your emotions overwhelm you. Make friendly eye contact, allow them to finish their thought, and respond by acknowledging what they said. 

For example, “I hear that …” or “Can you tell me more about …?”

Avoid taking offense or blurting out the first thought that comes to mind. Instead, ask questions to learn more about their position. When coworkers and employees feel heard, they’ll be more likely to speak up and share their opinions in the future.

Get to the Point Already

We’ve all been “let down easy” before. Although your heart may be in the right place, it can feel misleading and stressful to others when you talk around the point.

Tip #2: Get to the point already!

Don’t drag a point out during a 30-minute in-person meeting and leave everyone squirming in their seats if a quick email exchange could work. If you need to break heavy-hitting news, don’t begin with a slew of compliments.   

Think about what the other person needs to know. Summarize it into a few sentences. Then, deliver your message tactfully and in a way that considers the emotions and confidence of others.

Respect and honesty go a long way in the office.

Be Upfront & Honest

If you want to climb the corporate ladder, you need to master the sweet spot between under- and over-communication. 

For example, you don’t need to alert your boss every time you finish a task during your shift. But if you clear your queue and can handle a heavier workload, telling your manager can boost team productivity.

Be honest instead of hoping nobody notices that you’re struggling or falling behind on your deadlines. Remember, your coworkers (and boss) don’t know what they don’t know.

Don’t Forget About Conciseness

You’re not intentionally phrasing things to confuse your coworkers. But when you notice a blank look in their eyes or a table full of furrowed brows, your delivery might need some work.

That’s where being concise comes in handy.

What makes sense in your head doesn’t always translate verbally in a way that everyone understands. 

Think about the five W’s (and one H):

  • Who?
  • What?
  • When?
  • Where?
  • Why?
  • How?

If you can explain it in three sentences, don’t drag it out into ten. If you can describe something in layman’s terms to those in another department — do it.

However, don’t confuse conciseness with bluntness. Being too direct can come off as rude and derogatory, which can destroy team morale.

Work on Empathy

When you’re pulling your weight in the workplace, watching others slack off can be frustrating. But don’t jump to conclusions without striking up a conversation with your coworker first.

Often, there’s a logical explanation.

For example, a coworker who suddenly begins missing deadlines might be struggling mentally or mourning the loss of a loved one. Or a peer who’s become snappy might feel overwhelmed with an ever-piling workload.

Remember, we’re all humans.

Before you accuse a fellow worker of dropping the ball or intentionally leaving more work for you to do, ask how they’re feeling.

Master All Styles of Communication

The digital age means that communication can take several forms:

  • In-person meetings
  • Cubicle chit-chat
  • Email
  • Text messages
  • Zoom meetings
  • Slack chats
  • Written notes

Unfortunately, being a skilled speaker doesn’t always translate to a well-written (or well-received) email. Your workplace success hinges on communicating effectively across all mediums.

Learn which method best matches what you have to say. For example, changing the deadline on a project can be a quick email. But if you’re alerting your boss to a team problem, an in-person or Zoom meeting might be better.

Remember, it’s hard to gauge tone or emotion in written text!


Perhaps the best way to improve your communication skills in the office is, well, learning how to communicate. It’s not just what you plan to say but rather how you say it.

Start practicing things like:

  • Voice volume
  • Tone
  • Terminology (it should match your audience’s expertise)
  • Emotional control
  • Body language (watch eye rolls, hand movements, shrugs)
  • Complete focus
  • Respect
  • Ditching offensive language or slang

Something as simple as raising your voice, sounding sarcastic, or rolling your eyes can completely change your message.

Bonus: Prepare Before Going Into Conversations 

The most skilled communicators can handle off-the-cuff conversations. But any bit of preparation is better than simply winging it!

If you have time to prepare, do it.

Jot down a list of topics you plan to discuss. Bring sources to reference (and copies for everyone). Always research any terms or subject areas you’re unsure of.


Some of us learn how to talk before we even toddle our first steps. And, if you’re a millennial or later, you probably mastered the art of digital text in your teens.

But successful workplace communication digs much deeper. You need to know what to say, how to say it, and — even more importantly — how to juggle back-and-forth conversations.

Your message won’t always land as intended. Yet, if you set positive communication as a goal, you’ll become a more skilled communicator in the office. 

[Author Bio]

Amber Smith is the Leasing Manager at Catalyst Houston. With over seven years of experience at luxury apartment communities, this Houston native has true pride in her city and understands why Catalyst is the perfect place to call home.