Almost every job requires some interaction with coworkers. Follow the key coworkers communication etiquette rules.  Be an effective and appreciated team member.

What coworkers communication etiquette is

Coworkers communication etiquette is the set of rules to appropriately and effectively engage and communicate with your coworkers. Such rules include:

  • The key communication principles.
  • How yo build trust.
  • The mistakes to avoid.

As an employee, you should respect coworkers communication etiquette to look professional, appropriately interact with your coworkers, and avoid any issues.

As a manager or employer, promote coworkers communication etiquette in your team to ensure effective communication between your team members.

How to communicate with colleagues. The most important rules to interact with coworkers. Tips to be an effective and appreciated team-member.

Coworkers communication etiquette rules

How to communicate with your team. Adjust your communication style to the context.

1) The optimal communication style depends on the context

Adapt your communication style to the situation. The context depends on the following factors.

Your company 

What is your company’s culture? What is the communication style in your company? Formal or informal? Friendly or rather serious? 

Observe how your coworkers interact with each other. How they communicate on different occasions. Identify your coworkers that are considered role models. Follow their example, adjust your communication style, and mirror their best practices. 

Your team

What is the communication style within your team? It is best to adjust to your team, rather than expect your team to adjust to you. Observe which practices your manager praises and adopt them.

The coworkers you communicate with

Adapt your communication to the personal profile of each coworker. Age, background, religion, and other factors influence how a person communicates or perceives any message. 

Observe how each coworker communicates with the other team members and with you. Try to mirror the same style.

 The communication channel

Adapt your style to the communication channel. For example, email requires special attention to the tone and conciseness. Prefer informal channels, such as team chat apps, to communicate with coworkers.

How to build trust with your coworkers

2) Be predictable and dependable

The main goals of coworkers communication etiquette are to create a connection and build trust, align, and get work done. 

Thus, you should always clarify your needs. Make sure that your coworkers understand why you are reaching out to them. Clearly communicate your key performance indicators (KPIs). If your coworkers know what your KPIs are, they will understand your needs. It will be easy for them to predict your behavior, work with you, and support you.

When coworkers reach out to you, always respond. Speed is a factor. It means that you value them and their time. Respond to an email within 24 hours. Respond to an instant message within 3 or 4 hours. If you do not know how to respond to a colleague, state it. Do not give an imprecise or fluffy answer.

Simplify concepts. Avoid jargon or technical terms. Be concise. Do not overtalk, as it may confuse the colleague. Use consistent vocabulary. Use always the same word to describe one thing. Avoid synonyms, as they may create confusion. 

3) Keep the content professional 

Do not mix personal and professional. Building a personal connection with your coworkers is positive. However, set boundaries and make sure that you respect them.

Avoid too personal questions. Avoid controversial topics, which may lead to misinterpretation or even be inappropriate.

coworkers communication etiquette to interact in a positive tone

4) Communicate in the right tone

A good relationship with your coworkers always pays off. It improves your personal brand. It increases the likelihood of a promotion or a raise. 

Be friendly. Communicate with coworkers in an informal and non-threatening manner. Make them feel that you are on the same side. 

Use positive language. Avoid negative words, sentences, or remarks. Avoid starting sentences with a “no”. If you meet in person, manage your non-verbal communication. Show positive body language

Pay exclusive attention when your coworkers speak. Listen more than you talk. Ask questions instead of making statements. 

Do not antagonize your coworkers. Ask probing questions instead. Be patient. Show empathy. How would you feel in their shoes? How would you want to be treated? What are their needs?

Do not interrupt colleagues. Let them finish their sentences. If you interrupt a coworker, you show a lack of respect. 

5) Follow up and hold your coworkers accountable 

As an employee, your priority is to get work done. So, you must hold your coworkers accountable. 

If a coworker is late, follow up. Be polite, but firm. Ask if something is causing the delay. State why a delay is a problem for you. Be understanding. Offer help. However, be firm if you need them to respect a deadline.

If the work of a colleague is of low quality, say it. Start by praising what was done well. Then, state clearly what should be improved and why. Be friendly and make your coworker understand what your needs are.

Ask your colleagues if they have feedback for you. It will show openness and make them more likely to accept your feedback.

6) Manage escalations in a friendly way

An escalation is when an employee needs to align with a manager before making a decision. Escalations are a normal and effective management tool. Escalations are necessary when goals are not aligned or when your coworkers have priorities that conflict with yours.  

When something is not working with a coworker, avoid a fight. It is best to start an escalation. Involve your managers. Present the facts. Ask them how they would solve the situation. This way, you can avoid direct confrontation with your coworker.

However, it is important that you agree with your colleague to start the escalation. Do not start an escalation on your coworker’s back. Show empathy. Mention that you understand their point of view and the situation. Then, state that it is best to involve your managers to move forward or solve the issue.

7) Communication with coworkers is an art: observe and adjust

We can always improve how we communicate with our coworkers. One size does not fit all. Thus, you should often take the time to reflect on your past interactions. What went well? What went wrong? Why could it be? Identify the key factors that influence communication success in your role. 

Observe others team members and how they communicate with their coworkers. The way they respond to variations in content, style, or tone. Then, gradually adjust your style to mirror their best practices.

coworkers communication etiquette mistakes

Coworkers communication etiquette: the worst mistakes

The Rude Index identifies and ranks negative behaviors. 

A high score (8-10) means that the behavior has the potential to trigger a conflict with others. A medium score (4-7) means that the behavior risks making you look inelegant and unsophisticated. More about the Rude Index and its methodology here.  

Avoid the worst coworkers communication etiquette mistakes. 

  • 9/10. Speaking more than you listen.
  • 8/10. Antagonizing your coworkers.
  • 8/10. Speaking in an inappropriate tone.
  • 7/10. Not paying exclusive attention when a coworker speaks.
  • 6/10. Not adapting your communication style to individual coworkers.