In today’s workplaces, employees are increasingly recognizing the impact of communication biases on both their professional and personal experiences. The advent of the Psychosocial Hazards Act has further highlighted these issues and the importance of mental health of providing a safe workplace. While it’s crucial for employers to take the lead in addressing these challenges, employees themselves have a critical role to play. This article outlines effective strategies that individuals have used to navigate and overcome communication biases in their workplaces.

Confronting Interruption in Meetings

Many employees find interruptions during meetings quite challenging. A strategy that can be adopted is to courteously assert yourself when interrupted, with phrases like, “May I finish my point?” Additionally, request a buddy call out the bad behaviour.

Managing Performance Review Language

Feedback offered can be very personal specifically attaching your values. Try and force your manager to be objective by asking “How does that impact my job?” and “Why do you see this as a problem”. “Please give me some examples where this has been a problem”. You can proactively manage potential biases in performance reviews by seeking specific examples and constructive feedback. This approach prompts a focus on objective performance metrics rather than personal characteristics.

Balancing Meeting Dynamics:

Meetings are often dominated by “noisy” individuals who may aggressively choose to make their points. To address unequal speaking time in meetings, employees actively contribute their insights and encourage participation from quieter team members. This strategy ensures a more balanced and diverse set of perspectives in discussions.

If this is impacting you, make a point of getting your content onto the meeting agenda.

Fostering an Environment of Equal Encouragement:

If you become aware of managers who are playing favourites or constantly ignoring certain individuals when praise is due. You can lead by example in celebrating the accomplishments of all team members, particularly those who are less recognized. Perhaps taking the time to chat with those less recognised, who are often quieter and support them in being more confident and speaking up.

Improving Email and Written Communications:

It is important to write confidently and succinctly, today everyone is overwhelmed with too many emails. Consider deleting the phrases that undermine your authority. “I’m no expert in this, but…” to “Does that make sense?” to “I kind of think…” Words such as ‘might’, ‘probably’, ‘maybe’, ‘somewhat’ and ‘possibly’ weaken your message and reveal a lack of confidence in what you’re saying.

Avoid jumping to conclusions about tone or intent and ask for clarification when needed, thereby reducing misunderstandings.

Challenging Parental Status Assumptions:

Parents are often singled out in the workplace and assumptions are made that they are less committed because they have alternative priorities. Parents in the workplace have found it effective to clearly communicate their schedules and work capabilities, directly addressing any biases regarding their commitment or availability.

Enhancing Networking Opportunities:

Recognizing the importance of networking, employees actively participate in various events and informal gatherings. Sometimes these events are set up to be exclusionary, for example, a trip to the golf course. In these situations, you can make the organiser aware that their event is not inclusive and therefore not aligned with your organisation’s values and come up with a range of alternatives.

Employees are not merely passive participants in their work environments; they play a vital role in shaping workplace culture. By adopting these strategies, you will be able to confront and overcome communication biases effectively. This proactive approach not only enriches their own work experience but also contributes to a wider cultural shift towards greater inclusivity and understanding within their organizations.

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