Workplace Communication: How to Deal With Workplace “Snipers”

Effective communication skills in the workplace lower stress and improve productivity. However, some employees can sabotage a positive workplace atmosphere with their negative communication habits. For example:

A supervisor observes her employee looking around nervously and then ducking behind the copy machine.

“What are you doing?”, she asks.

A timid voice comes from behind the copy machine, “Avoiding snipers.”

Communication Snipers In the Workplace

First, let me be clear. I’m not talking about military sharpshooters, I’m talking about the every day communication snipers. The ones in the workplace.

Workplace snipers are highly trained marksmen (or women) who shoot verbal targets from concealed positions.

They have had specialized training in verbal communication attacks such as:

humorous put downs,
disapproving looks
and innuendos.
Ok. So, your employees may not have to play “Duck and Cover” at your workplace, but they may feel like it sometimes, and that’s the worst thing they can do.

Workplace Communication Snipers Thrive on Negativity

Avoiding confrontation allows the snipers to get away with their covert hostility. Some people are just plain negative. They may have learned to act that way while growing up, or may have been rewarded for it later in life. Either way, they now make it a way of life – going about their day making trouble for those around them.

Snipers may not actually want to be too hurtful. They just have a poor way of dealing with relationships because they have learned that negative communication gives them an “edge.” So they use their verbal communication weapons to protect their territory, and keep anyone else from messing with them.

Unfortunately, this can have a negative effect on their workplace relationships, causing unnecessary conflict and tension. While snipers may feel they are gaining an “edge,” other employees wind up “feeling on edge” because of the problems they create.

People may find themselves tiptoeing around workplace snipers, keeping their distance, or avoiding them altogether. Their negativity has a destructive effect on the workplace atmosphere.

To Deal With Them, Learn this Communication Skill

Snipers usually refute their pot shots as either denial, “I’m only joking”, or volleying the responsibility back onto their victim, “Can’t you take a joke?”

Avoidance is not the answer. Here’s the secret to defusing them…

Train your employees to respond to these comments with a question.

“That sounds like you’re making fun of me. Are you?”
“What are you trying to tell me with that look?”
“Did you really mean what you said?”
Since verbal snipers rely on their camouflage, once their cover is blown, the chance for future attacks is lessened.

Dealing with negative communication is an essential leadership skill for supervisors and managers.

Being comfortable in the workplace is not only essential for employee job satisfaction, it’s also essential for quality productivity.

If you are a supervisor or manager, hold a communication skills training session with all your employees. This will alert any snipers that this type of negative communication won’t be tolerated. Your staff will appreciate your help and respect you

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Workplace Communication: Avoid Communication Blunders in a Multicultural Workplace

The multi-cultural workplace is here to stay. For many workplaces, miscommunication because of cultural differences is quite common and, as you can imagine, leads to hurt feelings and uncomfortable employee relationships. That’s why workplace leaders need to train employees to use effective communication in a multicultural workplace.

Obviously, better workplace communication can provide for more employee job satisfaction in general, but it’s even more important when there’s a mix of cultures.

Avoid Making Cultural Communication Blunders

In order to avoid making a cultural communication blunder it is very important for your staff to understand the customs of the different cultures represented in your workplace.

Anna is her team’s leader. She is giving evaluations and feedback to coworkers at a meeting. When she reaches Jin, a Japanese coworker, and offers some criticisms and helpful suggestions, Jin appears upset. “What did I do?,” wonders Anna. “Did I say something wrong?”
Anna didn’t realize that it is serious breach of etiquette in Japan to criticize someone directly in public. While Anna was a team coworker, it is even true when the relationship is superior-subordinate.

Anna decides to approach Jin about the meeting and ask if she did something wrong or offended her. Jin was appreciative and explained that in her culture, it is not acceptable to criticize someone in public.
Anna apologizes to her and adds that she would like to learn more about her culture so she can communicate more effectively. They decide to ask their supervisor to plan a training session where employees can share information about their cultures.

How to Help Multi-cultural Employees Get Along Better

Provide opportunities for your staff to:

Talk about each others’ cultures. Ask each other about helpful in communication tips.
Share information about each other’s cultural celebrations.
Bring in ethnic food and share recipes
Two other cultural differences that affect workplace communication.

What one culture considers ambitious and industrious is seen by some cultures as self-serving
While one culture values a confident and direct approach, some cultures view it as arrogant.
Everyone is Also an Individual

It is good to remind employees that even individuals within a particular culture are unique because of gender, age, occupation, education, life experiences, etc. That’s why it’s important for all employees who work together to get to know each other, personally.

If you and your staff can understand each other’s customs, and understand each other as individuals as well, it will open up a new world of communication for all of you, and lead to significant improvement in teamwork and employee satisfaction.

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