Communication at Work – What’s Really Important?


An article by Bahar Moumin, Manager Marketing & Sales at ti communication

A man wants to hang up a picture. He has the nail but no hammer. The neighbor has one. So our man decides to go over to borrow the hammer. But then he doubts: What if the neighbor doesn’t want to lend him his hammer? Yesterday, he already greeted me so briefly. Maybe he was in a rush. But maybe, he only pretended to be in a rush, because he has a problem with me. But why? I didn’t do anything to him; he must have taken something the wrong way. If someone wanted to borrow a tool from me, I would give it to them immediately. Why wouldn’t he? How can you say no when someone asks you such a simple favor?





People like this guy are toxic in life. And then, he actually thinks that I would depend on him. Only because he has a hammer. I’ve had enough. – And so he storms to his neighbor’s door, rings the bell, the neighbor opens, but before he can say „Good morning“, our man shouts at him: „Just keep your hammer, you twat!” Back in his apartment, he sits there with his picture in his hands – disappointed and desperate because of his fellow human beings. And he is determined: “Never ever will I talk to anyone again!”

In the bestselling book The situation is hopeless, but not serious: The pursuit of unhappiness, communication scientist Paul Watzlawiak demonstrates that it does not take another party for a conflict to emerge. A small, misinterpreted gesture seems to be enough, to construct a mental image that harms the relationship of two people in the long run. Every day, we are confronted with situations that can cause conflicts to emerge and often do so. We must realize that, sometimes, we see our colleagues more often and longer than our own family members during our 40-hour work week. This is enough time to be productive and also constructive; however, it is also enough time for misunderstandings to occur. Many organizations underestimate the related costs of conflicts and do not see an open dispute resolution through mediation as a cost-effective, sustainable solution. However, the costs through conflicts are one of the most underestimated expenses in the economy.

Politeness as Must-Have

If we only focus on the politeness amongst colleagues, how would you judge your own behavior? Did one or more of the following criteria occur in your communication?

  • Lack of greetings
  • Lack of „Thank you“ and „You’re welcome“
  • Not listening; Not noticing the difference between „hearing“ and „listening“
  • Do you meet your colleagues as equals and avoid patronizing comments and reactions?
  • Writing blunt and rude messages and emails
  • Constantly looking for mistakes in colleagues’ actions
  • Inability to share constructive criticism
  • Checking and writing emails during a meeting
  • Holding back information
  • Making derogatory, humiliating comments about others
  • Spreading rumors or interfering in colleagues’ private lives through offensive questions

These are only a few causes for conflict at work which lead to demotivation, internal quitting, employee fluctuation and a lack of concentration. These factors lead to increased error rates amongst employees – bad behavior costs organizations a lot of money.


Let’s take the neighbor as an example: Maybe, the man without hammer would not have constructed the mental image with high conflict potential, if the neighbor had greeted him properly. Office version: Your colleague is more likely to help you with your next problem, if you actually acknowledge him during you next morning greetings.

Self-communication – The Key to Successful Communication

CostsIf we are already talking about the man without hammer, how could he have reacted differently? Each day, we are confronted with situations that can cause a feeling of resentment within us. In those situations, the tiny flapping of a butterfly’s wing can cause a tornado in our minds. But how do I handle it best? Or, how can I avoid this spiral of negative thoughts?

The following describes the solution in an appropriate statement: It´s simple, but not that easy. The good news first: There is a proven and renowned way to avoid miscommunication with others. It is called: „non-violent communication“. The method of Rosenberg follows a simple pattern:

  1. Observation
  2. Feeling
  3. Need
  4. Request
I would like to rewrite the story for you:

A man wants to hang up a picture. He has the nail but no hammer. The neighbor has one. So our man decides to go over to borrow the hammer. But then he doubts: What if the neighbor doesn’t want to lend him his hammer? Yesterday, he already greeted me so briefly. Maybe he was in a rush. But maybe, he only pretended to be in a rush, because he has a problem with me. But why? It would be best if I just go over to ask him. Und so he goes over, rings the bell, the neighbor opens the door and gets the chance to say “Good morning”. The man starts to talk: „The other day in the hallway, I noticed that you greeted me very briefly. (Observation) It seemed unusual to me, which is why I felt surprised. (Feeling) I would like to understand. (Need) Could you tell me if there is something that bothers you? (Request) And if not, could I borrow your hammer?”

The story is no longer entertaining for the reader, but it is free of conflict.

Office version: You asked a colleague to conduct a research for your presentation and gave him/her a deadline. On exactly that day, the colleague calls in sick and you are left without the research. The following thoughts come up: „Great! You can’t count on anyone. Probably, he/she just didn’t feel like doing the job or was just too lazy to do it. He/she doesn’t commit to agreements at all and doesn’t want to deal with the consequences!”

  1. Observation: „With Mr./ Mrs. Sample it was agreed upon that he/she finalizes the research today. The research is not in my inbox today. Mr./Mrs. Sample called in sick.
  2. Feeling: I am surprised
  3. Need: …and I would like to understand.
  4. Request: Can you explain how this could have happened?

The bad, or let’s say, the challenging news is that it takes a certain amount of self-reflection and courage to communicate openly, even if the pattern does not seem complex.

The Challenge For Multicultural Teams

teamwork intercultural

Whether on a verbal or non-verbal level, conflicts and misunderstandings emerge because of miscommunication. Unmet agreements in project management, a lack of language skills in intercultural environments or the usual antipathy amongst colleagues are some of the reasons. But very often, it does not take a specific reason, to trigger a conflict. Since we often view situations from our own perspective, we do not realize how our attitude and especially our language may trigger our counterpart. This can occur in simple modes of expressions, but also in complex ones like the sharing of criticism. Expectations and experiences are based on values which differ from person to person. Therefore, the challenge lies in the way we speak and also, the non-violent communication.

Misunderstandings occur in intracultural environments, so amongst people from the same culture. However, in the intercultural context the probability is a lot higher. Therefore, the cultural sensitization of employees is a crucial part of their development in internationally operating organization. Other countries, other values, other misunderstandings.

connect puzzleThe cooperation within multicultural teams is a significant requirement for success. In many cases, the individual participants are not aware of their unique and mutual responsibilities. Often, intercultural trenches form between the participants, even though they are all in the same boat. Therefore, it is advisable to build up trustworthy relationships through appropriate communication from the very beginning. This paves the way for developing intercultural teams into a productive unity. That way, it will also work with the (work) neighbor!

In the offer of our open trainings, you will find a variety of trainings and coaching around the topic of multicultural teams. Your location is not listed? Get in touch with us and we will create an individual offer to meet your needs!

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Friday, 30 October 2020

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