3 Communication Mistakes That Lead to a Toxic-Feeling Workplace

Avoiding these common slip-ups can foster greater collaboration and productivity.

Pchyburrs/Getty Images
Pchyburrs/Getty Images

There’s no question our workplace culture can impact our job performance and set the tone for our stress levels, happiness, productivity, and mental well-being. New research reveals that the ways in which we communicate with our colleagues can impact our office’s atmosphere, and it could determine the difference between a corporate culture that is either empowering or toxic-feeling. Here are three common communication mistakes that could be contributing to an unhealthy work environment:

Not being mindful of how your words land

A large portion of what we say stems from how we read the present situation, and our sense of self-awareness plays a vital role in our everyday conversations. According to a study conducted by a group of psychologists at the University of California, Davis, many people don’t realize they’re being rude when they’re perceived as such, suggesting blind spots in our self-insight that can prompt miscommunications at work. The study’s findings highlight the importance of listening to yourself when you’re talking to others. If you hear what you’re saying and think you might be offended if someone said the same to you, it’s worth rephrasing and communicating your point differently.

Commenting on others’ appearance

When it comes to commenting on a co-worker’s appearance, you’re better off avoiding the subject matter at work. According to research conducted at the University of Liverpool, individuals with obesity are routinely stigmatized by colleagues. For example, telling your co-worker that their blouse looks flattering on them could imply that you think they have imperfections that need to be “flattered,” bringing on anxiety around appearance that detracts from productivity.

Withholding positive reinforcement

We often forget to praise our colleagues for a job well done, but when it comes to cultivating a healthy work environment, an appreciative remark can go a long way. In a new study published in Applied Psychology: An International Review, researchers found that workplaces with “ethical leadership” were found to yield happier employees — and one of the key factors was positive reinforcement. “Managers who demonstrate ethical leadership through two-way communication, positive reinforcement, and emotional support” not only mitigate aggressive or undermining employee behavior, the authors wrote, “but also helps alleviate stress in the work environment.”

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