Face-to-face interpersonal communication is becoming less and less frequent in the workplace. Communication these days is quickly evolving into less conversation and more electronic sharing of information. With such mainstream communication technologies such as e-mailing, texting and instant messaging, employers are able to contact their employees without ever having to actually talk to them in the flesh. Without actual contact with each other, employers are losing valuable face-to-face interaction that is needed to maintain relationships and employee satisfaction. In large operations such as resorts, catering companies, hotels, casinos, etc., where managers are dealing with a large staff, it can sometimes seem easier to just shoot a quick mass e-mail or text an employee, sending a speedy request or work concern. Not so fast; it’s time to walk away from the digital gadgets and get back to the basics: interpersonal communication.
Although interpersonal communication can encompass oral, written and nonverbal forms of communication, the term is usually applied to spoken communication that takes place between two or more individuals on a personal, face-to-face level.1 This type of communication is so valuable because body language along with gestures can make a person’s perception of your communication clearer and more welcoming. Communicating face-to-face helps you get across what you mean more efficiently and can also minimize friction and misunderstandings.
“Face-to-face communication remains the most powerful human interaction,” says Kathleen Begley, Ed.D., author of Face-to-Face Communication, Making Human Connections in a Technology-Driven World. “As wonderful as electronic devices are, they can never fully replace the intimacy and immediacy of people conversing in the same room, and it has worked for millions of years.”2
One of the most important components for successful communication is clarity. People need to be able to understand what you are saying through any form of communication you are using to relay your message. When you take out the interpersonal communication between an employer and employee, a breakdown in communication can happen. For example, misunderstandings can occur when the employee does not possess a clear idea of the message trying to be communicated via a short text message or the tone of an e-mail. Instead, a manager should hold a staff meeting in order to cover a large amount of information at one time and establish clarity, letting staff know about important deliveries, schedule changes or upcoming events of which everyone needs to be aware.
Engaging in person-to-person communication indicates that the manager is receptive to feedback, and willing to listen and help with questions or concerns directly. It takes about the same amount of time to write an e-mail, but communicating in person ensures a more accurate understanding of the message. This improves employee satisfaction because they feel informed and develop a stronger sense of involvement and belonging in the day-to-day activities of the organization.
Think of it this way: e-mail is great for scheduling and confirming meetings, phone is good for quick conversations that require two-way communications, and in-person and scheduled meetings are always the best for any discussion requiring true dialogue and consensus. Using technology rather than personal discussion always delays decision-making. Face-to-face communication promotes more than just good feelings; it also promotes effective and collaborative teamwork.
“We need to take vacations from our BlackBerrys, computers and voicemail, and get out and talk to everyone in the organization. Nothing can replace open and honest face-to-face communication.”3
When we rely upon e-mails and text messaging for communication, we only tell half the story. Make it a point to engage in face-to-face communications with your staff to get the other half of the story. The next time you are tempted to send an e-mail, text message or make a phone call, stop! Get back to basics. Go out of your comfort zone and instead, set up a face-to-face, in-person meeting. Why? Because it’s worth the extra effort; you’ll see!
1 Reynolds, D. (2002). Effective Interpersonal Communication in the Workplace. Retrieved from www.essortment.com/career/.
2 Begley, K. (2004). Face-to-Face Communication, Making Human Connections in a Technology-Driven World. Crisp Publications, Inc.
3 Martin, C. (2007). The Importance of Face-to-Face Communication at Work. Retrieved from www.cio.com /article/29898/.