Managing a team with different communication styles is nothing new. It’s always been essential for managers to understand the unique work and communication styles of their staff. However, in this new post-pandemic world where remote and hybrid work is prioritised, effective communication is now more important than ever.
Prior to COVID-19, the world was already on a transitional path toward more flexible and alternative working styles. New generations of workers simply want better for themselves, which means being able to have healthier, more balanced work and personal lives.
However, when the recent pandemic hit, it acted as a sort of catalyst that propelled this movement forward and sped up the process of companies going entirely digital and offering remote work options. And while this is ultimately a good thing, it does mean that we sort of skipped a lot of steps that would have helped companies and their workers be better prepare for this transition.
Communication, for example, is one area that has been most affected by the sudden jump to remote work en masse. As such, many employers and managers are struggling to adapt and manage communication in this new remote workplace setting. But as challenging as effective communication with remote teams might seem, it’s not an impossible feat to overcome.
By working to better understand your employees’ communication styles and what they need to achieve more effective and prompt communication with one another, you can have more success navigating and managing the post-pandemic remote and hybrid workplace.
Why Is It Important to Understand and Manage Your Employees’ Communication Styles?
Achieving effective communication is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Your team of employees is diverse and unique, which is what makes for a good company. Diverse teams bring together people with new ideas and different skill sets that allow your company to be more innovative and productive.
However, a diverse staff also means you are going to have diverse communication styles and differing needs, which means you need a communication strategy that is just as diverse and capable of catering to those different needs.
If you’ve been treating everyone the same in terms of communication, this is likely where things are going wrong. And not understanding your team’s unique communication needs in a remote workplace setting can be even worse.
So, one of the first steps to better-managing communication with remote teams is to take the time to get to know your individual employees and their communication styles better. Perhaps you have someone or more than one someone on your team who is neurodivergent, for example.
People who are neurodivergent can be incredibly talented and beneficial to your company, but their communication styles can be quite different from those who are neurotypical. So it’s important to learn their unique communication style and needs so they don’t end up feeling left out or constantly misunderstood.
But it’s not just staff who are neurodivergent that you should work to better understand. Every single one of your remote team members is a unique individual who deserves to be understood. And the more you understand them, the more you can develop a more effective communication strategy that caters to everyone’s different communication styles.
Examples of some of the different communication styles that you might come across with your team include:
- Passive communicators: Passive communicators don’t speak up frequently and are typically those who prefer to just go with the flow and do what everyone else wants. They may do this because they feel socially anxious about speaking up, so it’s important to make them feel comfortable and to give them the confidence to make their voice heard.
- Aggressive communicators: Aggressive communicators are very confident and might even give their opinion too often. They may even talk over others and have a hard time listening to what others have to say. With these communicators, it’s important to help them understand that what they are saying is valid but that it’s important for everyone on the team to be heard.
- Passive-aggressive communicators: These communicators might have a lot to say, but they might not be very good at communicating what they think, or they might feel uncomfortable saying what they mean. With this type, similar to passive communicators, it’s important to create a space where they feel comfortable speaking up so they can learn over time how to better communicate what it is that they want to say.
- Assertive communicators: Assertive communicators are often very effective communicators. They know what they want to say and how to say it and can usually do so without being aggressive. With these types, it’s actually best to step back and let them lead, as this will empower them to grow even more into a leadership role themselves.
How Employee Communication Can Affect Other Areas of Your Business
Good communication isn’t just important when it comes to your remote teams; it also plays a role in the customer experience and your company’s overall reputation. If your employees aren’t communicating well with one another, chances are they aren’t communicating well with your customers either. And if your customers have bad experiences, it can tarnish your brand’s reputation.
So when it comes to managing the communication styles of your teams, consider the role this plays in reputation management. Your brand’s reputation plays an important role in whether or not your customer will stick around and leave good reviews that will attract more customers. So when managing your employees’ communication with one another, make sure their effective communication is carrying over into how they communicate with your customers as well.
Good communication skills are especially important today as we continually move toward a technology-driven world. Specifically, we are living in an age that is starting to rely heavily on artificially intelligent (AI) systems, but those systems are only as good as we are.
In other words, AI and automation can only do so much and still require human interaction and good communication. If your teams are slacking on their communication because they think the AI can just handle everything for them, then this can come back to bite you in the foot. A company that uses AI, such as AI-powered chatbots, still needs to be driven by a team of effective human communicators.
Furthermore, even if AI systems are not utilised in your company, we are living in what is referred to as a VUCA world (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity). This is a term used to describe the world as it is now and how we work and socialize in it.
And on the work side of things, one of the best ways to address things like uncertainty and volatility is with a human touch that delivers better communication. When your remote teams can humanize the experience for your customers in an ever-changing world full of chaos and uncertainty, you are more likely to retain loyal customers who continue bringing you business for years to come.
Best Practices to Improve Communication in the Remote or Hybrid Workplace
So, what are some tips or best practices you can use to help you learn to better understand and manage your team’s remote communication styles?
- Set aside one-on-one time with each individual team member to understand how they communicate and what they might need help with to overcome communication hurdles.
- Prioritize remote team-building activities that allow your remote workers to get to know one another better.
- Teach your team the art of active listening. Communication isn’t just about being a clear communicator; it’s also about being a good listener.
- Encourage your team members to use a friendly, optimistic tone as much as possible, as it’s much easier to assume someone is being harsh or rude when you can’t see their face or body language in remote settings.
- Utilize the right communication channels and tools that help your team better communicate with one another and your customers.
- Ask for feedback from your staff about ways to improve communication and what would make things easier for them.
- Use video calls as much as you can, as it’s much easier to communicate when you can see someone’s facial expressions and body language.
When all is said and done, it’s important to remember to have patience when it comes to understanding your remote team’s communication needs. You may even need to have some difficult conversations with your team. It’s not going to be easy, but the more you fight it, the harder it will be.
So take your time getting to know the different communication styles, continually ask for feedback, and just know that it’s going to be a process. But in the end, if you are willing to put the time and effort into improving communication, it will work out, and you will have more success going forward.
Author: Charlie Fletcher – Freelance Writer, and Journalist at Charlie Fletcher
Photo credit: Mikhail Nilov