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January is the time of year when New Year’s resolutions are fresh in our isminds – changes we ultimately willfully ignore (what was I thinking?) forget about (oh, yeah, well, I “meant” to do it) or in rare cases, actually MAKE.

Sometimes resolutions don’t come to fruition because they were too difficult and unrealistic. In other cases, like communication in the workplace, employees and managers might not realize there is a problem.

Take all of the modes of communication available today: Laptops, mobile devices, email, texts, video chat, how could communication not be good? This might seem unlikely, but it’s been my experience that it happens all too often. Why? That will vary depending on where you work, and what type of boss you have, but occur it does. Here are a few reasons:

* Too much assuming. This one almost goes without saying, and yet it still happens all of the time. Let’s say you receive an important email from your boss – Joe – around quitting time. It’s likely that Joe will assume you read it and follow up on it if necessary. But what if you didn’t read it? You were nearly out the door after all. What if you read it the next day, but it was 10 a.m., and Joe wanted you to take action by then? Just one of the many examples of how assuming can make an….a-s-… well, you know the rest. Be as clear as possible about your intent and any follow-up that’s required – as well as a deadline, if there is one. It’s better to over-communicate than to be vague.

istwo* Not understanding how your boss thinks. Is Joe the type of manager who is very detail conscious and wants as complete a report as possible? Then don’t communicate too little and just send the “bare bones”. What if Joe prefers a simpler approach in which he just wants the essentials, and will proceed from there? Then don’t bother Joe with a lengthy report that will frustrate, more than help, him. Or what about the type of communication? Joe might prefer email in which he will have a written record of what you’re saying. But if Joe isn’t an emailer, don’t email away and expect him to get back to you promptly. Pick up the phone! Knowing how your boss prefers to communicate is crucial to getting things done in a timely, efficient manner.

* Forgetting that communication is a building block. Think about all the business buzz words you come across. Building positive relationships. Innovative, outside-the-box thinking. Active listening. Teamwork. How do each of these start? With effective communication!

Improve communication in your workplace, and positive results will follow. That’s a New Year’s resolution worth keeping.

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