Employment — 30 January 2012
Good communication skills help with job security

In hard economic times, when jobs are scarce and lay-offs are rampant, employed people are grateful and cautious. To preserve their positions, many workers concentrate on job performance and pleasing their superiors. What some overlook is their personal style of interaction with others. The “likeability factor” is an essential contributor to preserving one’s job.

The value of good communication skills is emphasized in relationships, sales and marketing jobs, employment interviews and work performance evaluations. Although equally important, it is less underscored as an ongoing essential contributor to being retained on the job.

Timothy Judge, in “The Big Five Personality Traits, General Mental Ability, and Career Success Across the Life Span” reports, “Three of the Big Five dimensions-neuroticism, extraversion and conscientiousness-appear to be most relevant to career success.” “Neuroticism leads to anxiety, personal insecurity and depression… Extraverts are more likely to take on leadership roles and have a greater number of friends… “Conscientiousness includes achievement oriented, dependability and orderliness.”

Three ways in which an employee discredits himself on the job include: Having a non-communicative attitude, (Introversion), exhibiting an arrogant or superior presentation, (Neuroticism), or being defensive and non-compliant (Neuroticism/Non-Conscientious). Each of these behaviors includes verbal and non-verbal aspects.

Being non-communicative on the job is rarely the worker’s stated goal. It may actually stem from the employee’s desire to excel on his own to prove his competence. Or, he may have difficulties with communicating his job needs so he isolates himself from the team. Or, he may be insecure about his skills and is afraid to ask so he acts as though he is self-sufficient.

When an employee is non-communicative, for whatever reason, he may cause co-workers to feel distanced from him or provide less support and thus hurt his job performance or expedite his employment termination.

The worker who speaks in a loud, affirmative tone and begins most sentences with “I”, is likely to be perceived as arrogant and superior. If his posture and stature are also impressive, they further exacerbate an aura of a non-team player. Others often feel “talked at” rather than “talked with.” Feeling belittled by a colleague diminishes co-workers and generates their unfavorable view. Group disapproval reduces one’s job security.

A defensive communication style commonly starts with an explanation, e.g., “I know that this report is not exactly what you requested, but I hope it is still ok.” Often the tone is low, slightly whiny and one’s posture is slumped. Starting with an apology, explanation or justification, instantly diminishes the employee’s competency and makes him less well regarded than need be.

Be a good communicator to secure your job:

¨     Understand that every person needs to feel valued to cooperate with and appreciate another.

¨     Use your lower voice, make eye contact, and affirm the other’s point first before you nicely disagree with it.

¨     Do not start messages with “I”. Use “we”, “us” and “our” about the team, goals or company.

¨     Be appreciative of others’ ideas and contributions.


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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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