BSBXCM301 Engage in workplace communication

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Chapter 1

Engage in workplace communication


Learning outcomes

In this chapter, you will learn how to:

  • Plan workplace communication
  • Undertake routine communication
  • Participate in workplace communication

In the workplace, we are constantly communicating with colleagues and customers. This can be on the phone, in writing (often emails or short messages on apps such as Teams) or face to face. Good communication skills help us to respond promptly to instructions and enquiries. This is important not only for our own work but also for other people’s job performance, which may depend on how effectively we respond to them. Effective communication therefore improves an organisation’s efficiency and productivity.

Communication is arguably the single most important component in a successful business. Your organisation can have qualified and reliable staff, clear policies and procedures, and a great location, but none of that matters if the communication process doesn’t work. Poor communication in the workplace can result in frustrated employees or customers and misunderstandings that waste time and resources. All of this can lead to an unhappy, incohesive workplace.

The difference between a successful company and an unsuccessful one is the ability of its staff to communicate at an appropriate level, using the best possible methods, to achieve the organisation’s desired outcomes.

Planning workplace communication

It could be said that communicating is a self-evident and simple skill; after all, you talk to friends and family all the time, don’t you? In the workplace, however, communication takes on very different aspects and needs to be more considered. Much depends, for example, on:

  • why you need to communicate
  • who you will be communicating with
  • how this communication needs to take place
  • what needs to be said.

In smaller organisations, people often work together in a small group and in a small space. Communication can be very simple and informal, even between employees and managers. People might use first names and relate to each other in a casual, familiar way. In larger, multinational companies, on the other hand, you are less likely to speak often with a senior manager, the group chief executive officer (CEO) or the chairperson. On those occasions when you did, you would be expected to communicate in a more formal way or even to follow certain protocols.

An organisation’s productivity depends on work being done efficiently. Time, as they say, is money. People in the business world are generally very busy and don’t have time to waste on irrelevancies or trying to understand confused messages. This means that the time that’s available to you to communicate with people in the workplace may be limited, so you need to know exactly what you want to say, how it relates to your audience, and why it is important for them to have this information.

Establishing the audience and purpose of workplace communication

Who is the audience?

When communicating in a business environment, the first thing you need to consider is who your audience is. These people may include:

  • colleagues, with whom you might discuss day-to-day issues related to your specific jobs
  • supervisors or senior managers, with whom you might need to communicate to:
    • report on any issues or problems
    • receive instructions
    • pass on customer complaints
    • request authority for something you want to do that may need approval
    • discuss reviews, training or any other business-related issues
  • customers, who might need assistance with or information about products or services
  • suppliers, to order stock or other necessary supplies or to chase up deliveries.

Your audience will determine the level of formality you use. When passing information on to a colleague or team leader, you won’t need to be as formal as if you were addressing the company CEO or a customer.

What is the purpose of the communication?

The many types of interactions that take place on a daily basis in a work environment may have very different purposes and require different communication methods. For example, the purpose of the communication may be to:

  • gather information that you need to complete a task or project
  • share information with colleagues or supervisors
  • provide training
  • update others on the progress of a work project
  • research information to meet a specific work need
  • sell a product or service to customers
  • lodge a complaint
  • suggest improvements.

Who you are addressing, and the reason for the communication, will determine the appropriate communication method and style.

Identifying information needs and communication requirements

Depending on what is to be communicated and its intended recipient, information needs will vary, as will the frequency of that communication and the method used. For example:

  • The sales and marketing department needs information relating to:
    • competitor brochures or product information
    • results of customer feedback on your products and services
    • latest trends and fashions within your company’s industry.
  • The accounts department needs information about:
    • financial reports
    • sales figures
    • banking records and paperwork
    • receipts for sales made
    • invoices received
    • stocktakes, inventories, and so on,
  • Customers want to know about:
    • the features and benefits of your products or services
    • refund policies
    • sales and special promotions
  • Operations managers will need information about:
    • customer orders to be fulfilled
    • delivery schedules for incoming and outgoing goods
    • the state of the organisation’s inventory, so that supplies can be replenished
    • maintenance of equipment or premises.
  • Company managers will need to know about:
    • sales reports
    • staff performance
    • workplace health and safety (WHS) issues
    • information about legal matters and codes of practice.

These are just a few examples of the information needs within an organisation. Some of this information will be communicated in written form (either on paper or in electronic format). For example:

  • brochures or articles you have found.
  • bank statements, receipts and invoices to accounts
  • customer order forms and delivery schedules to the operations staff.
  • Customer feedback, on the other hand, could be passed on verbally, and products or services would often be sold in a face-to-face encounter.

How often such communication takes place will be guided by the nature of the information, its importance and/or urgency to your organisation, and the needs of the people who are receiving it. For example:

  • Customer complaints or serious workplace problems should be communicated to relevant supervisors as soon as they occur.
  • Individual teams or departments within a business might share information each day on what work is to be done that day and any particular issues that might be relevant.
  • Management teams might hold weekly staff meetings to consider important business information that potentially affects the entire organisation.
  • Monthly reports to senior management, or the board of directors, provide an overall picture of how the organisation is doing.

In summary, the method and style of communication you use will depend on the specific audience and purpose. For example:

  • How quickly or urgently does the information need to be passed on?
  • Does there need to be a written record of the communication?
  • What is the audience preference? Do they prefer to discuss issues face to face, or to talk on the phone, or do they generally like to see things in writing?


What type of information do you need to do your work? What type of information does your supervisor need to do their work? What type of information does your organisation’s general manager need to run a successful business? How do these types of information vary?

Establishing and selecting methods of communication

It isn’t unusual in today’s business world not to meet a customer face to face and for all communication with them to take place via the internet. And, thanks to online communications, people working for the same company don’t necessarily need to work in the same building, city or even country. This changing nature of business means that organisations use many different methods of communicating.

How you communicate with others in the workplace will vary depending on company protocols, the urgency of the communication and the preferences of the people involved. Communication methods suited to audience and workplace requirements can include verbal means, written means and the Internet of Things.

Verbal communication

Verbal communication allows for efficient interaction between people. It enables them to ask and answer questions, examine a topic and debate an issue, so that they can quickly solve a problem or make a decision.

Verbal communication, in the traditional sense, means actually speaking with someone. This can be done in a number of ways:

  • By face-to-face This occurs when you speak to, for example, a colleague, supervisor or customer directly.
  • By telephone. Most larger organisations use landlines for their telecommunication systems, with a number of lines that are routed via a switchboard, with calls answered by a receptionist who then passes them on, or via direct extension numbers. Companies that use landlines may have Freecall numbers for customers to call them, such as 13 or 1300 numbers.
  • By mobile devices and videoconferencing. More and more employees are being offered flexible work-from-home arrangements. The recent pandemic, COVID19, has had a significant impact on such workplace arrangements and it is expected that these will remain in place for the foreseeable future. This means that devices and laptop computers that allow users to communicate both verbally and visually are increasingly popular. Many organisations now use apps such as Google Meet, Zoom, GoToMeeting and Microsoft Teams to facilitate remote communication with employees and customers.

Written communication

Written communication between colleagues can be formal (e.g. official documents) or informal (e.g. quick, short messages). Written communication also allows you to document a conversation or a process. This may be important for compliance issues or future audits, or when you want to share information with colleagues. Written documents can be used as proof of what was said or not said during a dispute. If a “paper trail” is necessary as part of an improvement process or a conflict resolution, then written communication is the best option. Written communication includes:

  • While sending printed letters via the post is less common these days, there are still cases where a traditional letter is needed. This is often the case for more formal or official documentation such as legal matters, reference letters and job offers that require signatures. These letters can also be sent and signed electronically with programs such as Docusign.
  • Business reports contain facts and research that help businesses to plan and make decisions. Reports use headings to organise information, and often are based on a company template.
  • One of the most widely used written communication methods, emails allow you to send attachments such as documents and images. They also provide an excellent written pathway, as they are date and time stamped, so you can track exactly when an email was sent or received.
  • SMS (Short Message Service). Similar to sending an email, text messaging has the added advantage of being totally mobile. By providing “on the go” access, it enables quick responses.
  • Social media. A great deal of business communication today takes place via social media. It is an excellent way of staying in touch with customers, and of promoting your organisation and its products to potential consumers.
  • Many organisations have an intranet, where information can be shared internally. They may also have administration or operational systems that collect information from data that you enter. This data can then be used to:
  • understand and take advantage of any trends in product or service sales that might be occurring
  • control stock or material inventories, allowing the organisation to better manage and control its finances
  • communicate with staff, customers or suppliers in an automated manner, sending information that is of interest as and when required.

Internet of Things

Internet of Things (IoT) is a catch-all term used for the increasing number of electronics that aren’t traditional computing devices, but are connected to the internet to send information, receive instructions, or both. Almost every aspect of our lives now generates data. Smart watches track each step we take and sense each beat of our heart. The smartphones in our pockets know our location at any moment, our hobbies, where we’re going on holiday, and what we’re considering buying.

The IoT brings the power of the internet, data processing and analytics to the real world of physical objects. In the same way that you can ask “Alexa” to play your favourite songs or turn on the air conditioner, you can ask IoT systems to run specific programs on computers that control manufacturing, administration or reporting processes. For example, the IoT can be used in the workplace for purposes such as:

  • To track maintenance with connected printers or copiers. Many offices are already using internet-connected office equipment, but a new generation of smart alternatives has become available that allows the organisation to monitor paper, ink and toner usage and warns when they are getting low. They can also connect to inventory systems and make orders without human involvement.
  • To enable intelligent lighting with smart bulbs. Such lighting can be used in a number of ways to improve business office efficiency; for example, it can be set to adjust brightness or colour balance throughout the day, thereby helping to minimise eye strain, stress and discomfort.
  • To enable smart assistants such as “Alexa” or “Cortana” to sync whole offices, track meetings, and control all manner of customer-related settings.
  • To control the office climate. Smart thermostats can be used to adjust the temperature and keep staff comfortable.

The age of digital communication has made it much easier and more convenient to undertake a whole range of work processes. It is allowing us to cast a wide, global, net when dealing with customers or working with staff and other business network partners—no matter where they are.


When choosing the most appropriate communication method, think about the message being delivered, who it is being delivered to, and its purpose. Which method would you choose when asking a friend to meet up for coffee? When applying for a job? There are no right or wrong answers, but it’s unlikely you would choose the same method for both examples. One is a casual communication; the other is more formal.

Communication styles

Your communication style is the way in which you interact with others. It determines how you speak, act and react in various situations. It has also been found that efficiency, innovation and team spirit in the workplace can increase when you better understand the characteristics and tendencies of the different communication styles, and how to effectively interact with someone of a different style. There are four primary approaches to communication, as outlined in Figure 1.1.

 Passive communication style. The passive communicator often blends into their background, taking little part in team discussions or debates and tending to remain fairly quiet. They rarely take a strong point of view on any workplace subject, which can make it difficult for other team members to communicate with them or draw out any issues they may be having. Aggressive communication style. Team members with this communication style will often dominate any conversations they are part of and express their thoughts and feelings both freely and strongly. This often comes at the expense of other members of the team, who may feel intimidated by them. Aggressive communicators do, however, have the makings of good leaders but would need to take a calmer and more reasoned approach when communicating.
Passive–aggressive communication style.People who display this communication style often appear to be calm and passive on the surface but may have strong motivations behind their actions. Initially, they can sound as if they are in agreement while discussions take place; however, their actions may not always align with what they have said. It is said that passive–aggressive communicators can be manipulative in order to achieve their preferred outcome. Assertive communication style. This communication style is perhaps the most productive of the different styles. The assertive communicator is respectful towards others while sharing their thoughts and ideas in a confident manner. They have the ability to make others in the team feel confident, but they are also aware of their own limitations and know when to ask for help. They are ready to take on challenges but have the confidence to say “no” when necessary. These are people you will look to include in a team because you know they can help to achieve an effective outcome.

Figure 1.1 The four primary approaches to communication


Hold a five-minute conversation with someone in your class or workplace and reflect on your own style of communication. How well do you communicate with others? Is there anything you could do to adjust your style of communication to better accommodate others?

These are only a few examples of the information needs within an organisation. … continued in the soon to be released textbook; “Essential Skills for Business”