Workplace Communication Styles for Small Businesses

How Does Your Workplace Communication Style Impact Your Team?

Two people communicating poorly
Poor communication can damage a relationship from the start.

To say that good communication in the workplace affects the financial bottom line is a serious understatement. In a recent survey of 400 companies with 100,000+ employees, the average estimated loss per company from poor internal communications was $62.4 million. The communication challenges facing small businesses with smaller teams may not be as complex or costly as an international corporation, but they can be equally detrimental to the health and overall success of the company.

According to thought leader and NY Times best-selling author Mark Murphy, there are four kinds of core communication styles: Analytical, Intuitive, Functional, and Personal. While he states that no single style is better than any other, understanding your own style can help you do a better job of sharing and receiving important information with others. Here are Murphy’s four styles with some of their pros and cons, as well as ways you may be able to improve your communication in the workplace.

Analytical Communicators

Analytical Communicators are often categorized as chart-loving, data-driven people. They frequently focus on facts and projections, love citing figures and statistics, and tend to rely on data-driven decision-making. Conversely, they can get frustrated if they feel that someone on their team is making decisions without a good handle on the numbers.

  • Pros: Analytical Communicators provide solid ground for their colleagues in stressful situations as they can help make decisions using research, facts, and logic.
  • Cons: Analytical Communicators’ reliance on facts and statistics can be seen as “heartless” by colleagues who focus on emotion or intuition.

What you can do to improve: If you are an Analytical Communicator, try to practice patience with colleagues who may not be tracking things as analytically as you are. You might also consider making space for some emotional time in meetings, which are unlikely to run as efficiently as you would like. When presenting to Intuitive Communicators in particular, it’s important to try to add visuals and start with a summary of how your findings impact the big picture. Put all your data slides in your appendix and be prepared not to display them unless asked.

Intuitive Communicators

Intuitive Communicators are big thinkers who tend to want the bottom line first, without a lot of detail. Having to listen to someone review their step-by-step process can feel unnecessary.

  • Pros: Intuitive Communicators can be very efficient since they look for the most important points first. Their own communications are usually quick and focused. They tend to enjoy new challenges and creative “big picture” thinking, so they are ideal candidates for brainstorming sessions.
  • Cons: Some situations require getting down into the weeds and really understanding the details. For example, Intuitive Communicators may miss key points unless they are provided with regular summaries to keep them on board.

What you need to do to improve: Intuitive Communicators can have a hard time understanding the thought processes of data-obsessed Analytical Communicators, as well as with the needs of Functional Communicators, who want to walk through all their processes methodically. If you’re an Intuitive Communicator who manages those who are Analytical or Functional, ask them to start their meetings with a summary. This helps orient everyone and can help all involved parties get on the same page. Nonetheless, recognize that some employees may feel anxious if you don’t present the steps in the process they need to validate their conclusions.

Functional Communicators

Functional Communicators are process people. They like to break large tasks into smaller tasks, and love timelines, whiteboards, and ‘gantt’ charts.

  • Pros: Functional Communicators make amazing project managers because they tend to pay attention to details and are good at making sure nothing slips through the cracks. They can also help keep staff on track by doing the grunt work of planning and charting. Functional Communicators are also great for challenging assumptions and can help a team think about the impact of different choices going forward.
  • Cons: The downside of being a Functional Communicator is that those who do not think this way can sometimes be bored by what you want to talk about. Getting into the tiny details of a project can risk losing attention.

What you need to do to improve: Remember that some people, especially Intuitive Communicators, can feel overwhelmed and bogged down by a methodical approach. They will want to jump ahead, which can be frustrating because you know how much they are missing. By giving them a summary of what they need to know up front, and then pointing out key details later, you’ll be better able to keep the attention of everyone in the room. In meetings, try to focus less on the details of what has happened already, and more on the impact of choices still to be made.

Personal Communicators

Personal Communicators are the glue that holds the office’s social and emotional life together. They place a high value on feelings and emotional connection, and use their strong interpersonal skills to understand what others are “really thinking.” They know that getting buy-in and collaboration requires trust, and trust is built on emotion rather than facts.

  • Pros: Personal Communicators are the office diplomats, often called on to help smooth tensions. Their contributions can range from helping convey different, big ideas in varying manners, to resolving tensions about some of the small yet irksome workplace things, such as how the communal fridge is managed.
  • Cons: Personal Communicators can sometimes seem over-emotional, or “touchy-feely.” This is especially apparent to those who are less in tune with emotions, or who may choose to maintain a more buttoned-up demeanor at work.

What you need to do to improve: Try to remember that not everyone wants to hug things out. Some coworkers can experience your desire to have a more emotional connection as a distraction. Keep focused on building connections with those who are willing, while giving others the space they need to succeed.

Bottom Line

Each communication style brings unique skills and challenges to an office environment (and you can see which one you are by taking this quiz). By understanding your style and the styles of those around you, you can remove many of the roadblocks clogging the communication channels that your small business must rely on to succeed.