All workplaces have dozens of moving parts, each doing its own thing. When these parts have to come together, however, it doesn’t always lead to success. Tasks may have been unclear, delays happen, and tempers are lost.
What the workplace needs are employees who are also collaborative communicators. Such a practice makes it easier to achieve goals and sets up a stronger team for more success down the line.
What is collaborative communication?
Collaborative communication is an approach to communication that focuses on building relationships, sharing information, and working together toward common goals. It’s also about giving feedback and being open to feedback from other people.
Collaborative communicators focus more on developing trust, empathy, and rapport with others than achieving their objectives.
Collaborative communication is different from traditional “transactional” communication. The latter functions more like a business transaction.
The focus is on getting your point across, with little concern for how the other person feels or what they think.
Steps to become a collaborative communicator
Here are some specific tips and practices to consider when becoming a collaborative communicator. Keep these in mind, and with practice, they’ll become second nature:
Communicate respectively and transparently
The best way to communicate effectively with others is by being respectful and transparent in your interactions.
Collaborative communication means communicating clearly and honestly while being sensitive to how others feel when speaking with them.
Transparency is also important in the workplace. It builds trust among your co-workers and raises accountability levels when things go wrong.
Organize regular meetings and check-ups
Meetings are an important part of any business. They allow employees across teams to get together and discuss important issues that face them all.
Collaborative communicators schedule meetings so everyone can voice their opinions on company matters they feel strongly about.
These meetings also give leaders a chance to explain certain decisions. They can explain why they’ve been made and what they mean for employees’ daily responsibilities within their teams or departments.
Listen actively and empathize
A good collaborative communicator listens actively and empathizes with the other person. You should be present in the conversation and not distracted by what’s going on around you.
Focus on what the other person is saying. Active listening allows the other person to feel heard and valued.
Be willing to compromise
When collaboratively communicating with others, don’t force your opinions onto them or try to change their points of view.
Instead, find common ground and build from there. The best way to make relations at work is by being open-minded about other people’s ideas.
The best way to do this is by understanding what each party wants and then coming up with ideas that will be acceptable to both sides.
Assign roles and clarify expectations
Collaborative communication on a project that requires several people working together needs everyone to know what their role is and what they need to do.
If you want someone to take charge of a certain aspect of the project, ask them if they would be willing to take on that responsibility.
Everyone should know what they’re expected to do, who they’ll work with, and when they need to complete their assigned tasks.
This clarity helps prevent confusion later on down the road if someone needs help or isn’t sure about something.
Use collaborative platforms and tools
Collaborative communication platforms such as Slack, Dropbox, Google Drive, and Skype make it easy for employees to share files and messages. This can help improve productivity and efficiency by eliminating the need to send emails back and forth.
In addition, these platforms allow you to access important information at all times. This means you don’t have to worry about missing an important message or document during off-hours.
Normalize giving and receiving constructive feedback
Feedback is a natural part of collaborative communication and life. It’s also a necessary part of your career.
The trick is to take feedback well — to be open to receiving it and giving it thoughtfully and effectively.
When giving feedback, be specific, so the other person understands what you mean. Make sure they understand how they can change their behavior or performance to meet your expectations.
When receiving feedback, listen carefully and take note of what you hear. Reflect before responding.
Show gratitude for individual contributions
If someone has done something that benefits the team, make sure they know how much it helped. Even just an email of thanks means a lot. This makes them feel valued and appreciated, motivating them to do more of the same.
Collaborative communication points out specific contributions to show appreciation. It also encourages more good work.
Collaborative communicators look like better leaders when they recognize what people bring.
Look at the big picture
When it comes to communicating with others, try not to get caught up in the small stuff. Instead, focus on finding solutions that will benefit everyone involved.
Compromise doesn’t have to mean failure; it just means finding common ground with someone else’s ideas so that both of your needs are met.
Collaborative communication requires that both parties look at things from each others’ perspectives to understand where each other is coming from.
This means putting aside personal feelings and focusing on what’s best for everyone involved rather than just yourself or your team members.
Create a collaborative culture
Workplace culture plays an important role in promoting collaboration. If employees aren’t encouraged to work together effectively, they won’t feel comfortable collaborating with one another.
You can create an open environment by encouraging employees to share their ideas and opinions openly without fearing being mocked or criticized by others.
There is no place for power struggles or infighting in a collaborative communication environment. Instead, everyone on the team works together toward the same goal.
Why collaborative communication matters
A workplace focused on collaboration is a workplace preparing for the future. There’s no better foundation to build collaboration than through regular work communications.
Collaborative communication leads to well-organized teams that work effectively and progressively.
At the heart of it, you’re building relationships. When people have this in mind, they learn more from each other, boost productivity, and overall have a better work experience.
Collaborative communication is the start of building the best team you can have.
- Common goals. Newman, S.A. and Ford, R.C., 2021. Five steps to leading your team in the virtual COVID-19 workplace. Organizational Dynamics, 50(1), p.100802.
- Transparency. Sobering, K., 2019. Watercooler democracy: Rumors and transparency in a cooperative workplace. Work and Occupations, 46(4), pp.411-440.