Workplace Communication Skills


When you’re new to the workplace, it can seem like people are speaking another language. Understanding jargon and working on  your workplace communication skills will help ensure there are no barriers to your performance when you get your foot in the door.

In this guide, we’ll provide some helpful workplace communication tips and run through some scenarios to test your skills.

Workplace Jargon Buster

Sometimes in a new workplace, you’ll hear words you’ve never encountered outside of work. So what do they mean? Give the following activity a go and see if you can decipher some of the strange things people say int he workplace!

Activity 1

Write down what you thing the following phrases mean, in your own words.

  • Manage your workload.
  • Spread the load efficiently.
  • Blue sky thinking.
  • It’s on my radar.
  • Communicate your needs.
  • Re-invent the wheel.
  • Best practice.
  • Out of the loop

How many did you get right? Check your answers below.

  • Manage your workload – manage the work you have to do in the time you have to do it in.
  • Spread the load efficiently – share work out fairly so all colleagues can manage.
  • Blue sky thinking – best possible outcome, perhaps too optimistic a view.
  • It’s on my radar – I’m thinking about it, I know I need to do it.
  • Communicate your needs – tell me what support you need.
  • Not trying to re-invent the wheel – not trying to make something completely new.
  • Best practice – in line with current training and research.
  • Out of the loop – not involved in the situation, conversations.

Why Do We Use Jargon?

Professional (or corporate) language can seem a little odd. Why don’t people speak plainly? Sometimes jargon is unavoidable. You might have to get used to hearing certain phrases specific to your industry to help understand the context of what you are dealing with. Other times, it might be because people are not communicating directly – so jargon allows them to circle around the subject in a professional manner.

Workplace Communication Skills

  • Being able to communicate the support you need from early on in your career will be a useful asset.
  • If you are honest and direct but professional, you will not only earn the respect of your colleagues, but they will come to see you as reliable.

Activity 2

  • What kind of situations do you think you might need to ask for support with at work?
  • Write down three times you have had to ask for support in the past – something you didn’t understand at school, for example.

How to Communicate Your Needs at Work

Being able to communicate your needs, or ask for support, will be vital when you move to the next stage of your education or enter the world of work.

If you do not understand something, it is better to ask and receive support than it is to sit and struggle. People say ‘there is no such thing as a silly question’ – whilst that is not necessarily true, if you don’t know the answer, don’t ask, and do something silly, it’s not going to look good…

Activity 3

Let’s run through some examples to see how you would fair in the workplace. The answers are below, so no scrolling!

Scenario A

You are unsure of a process at work. How should you ask for support using that process?

  1. Send your line manager an email explaining what the issue is and asking for support.
  2. Ask the colleague next to you working away quietly if they know.
  3. Knock on HR’s door and ask if anyone is available.

Scenario B

It is an incredibly busy time of year. There’s a lot of work to do and your line manager decides to split the newer colleagues into pairs. You don’t know your ‘buddy’ very well, and are working to tight deadlines. What should you do? 

  1. Take the initiative to contact your new buddy and arrange a time to meet to discuss the work that needs to be done.
  2. Stay very late three nights in a row and do it all yourself. Great way to show that you’re committed to the organisation and run your overtime up.
  3. Draw a plan up and have a think about your skills, then discuss with your new buddy. Collaboratively share the load.

Answers to Activity 2

Scenario A:

All of the suggested responses may have been perfectly valid, depending on the circumstances on that particular day.

  • Sending an email with a support request is helpful as it means there is a record to come back to if you need to follow it up or evidence your development in a portfolio.
  • However, using your colleagues for support is also perfectly valid – however, they may be too busy in that moment to help you, so you would also be perfectly entitled to visit your organisation’s HR department.

Scenario B:

A combination of response 1 and 3 would be best.

  • Response 2 would not be a good approach. You would be shutting your colleague out (ignoring your line manager’s request to collaborate), unnecessarily running up overtime (which may not be helpful in the long run) and you may make silly mistakes in a drive to ‘work too hard’.
  • By engaging with your new colleague from the very start, you can first of all make a new contact within your organisation and use their skills to help you collaboratively manage the task at hand. You can work around your individual schedules to book in time to approach this particular task and identify any challenges in the time frame you have.

Need More Guidance?

If we haven’t answered all your questions about workplace communication, get in touch with team DANCOP and we’ll do our best to help.