A secret weapon for effective workplace communication


Enterprise success in the digital economy is dependent in large part on the ability of employees to collaborate and communicate effectively. Increasingly, this means using digital tools to work with colleagues, customers, and business partners located remotely.

Likewise, professional success for modern enterprise workers relies not only on adaptability and a learning mindset, but on “soft skills” such as problem-solving, creativity, innovation — and the ability to communicate. The thing is, nearly all work-based communication is conducted in text, whether we’re talking about email, actual texts, or messages delivered through collaboration platforms such as Slack.

“The phone call has lost its primacy in American communication,” writes Amanda Mull in The Atlantic. “By 2014, texting had become more common for Americans under 50. The popularity of text-based communication tools such as WhatsApp and Instagram direct messaging has exploded since. People currently in their 20s and 30s, in particular, have developed a reputation for being allergic to phone calls.”

While text has emerged as the preferred way to communicate among younger generations, it’s hardly the most effective or impactful. Text can lack nuance and context, and dry attempts at humor can fall flat or even be mistaken as negativity or cynicism. Believe it or not, sometimes even emojis are unable to bridge the text communications gap! (Don’t get me wrong; I’m all for emojis. My favorite is the eye roll. I get about three of those a day from my wife.)

Specifically, text-based communication is deficient in three ways:

  1. It can be less efficient than a conversation
  2. It can convey less information than a conversation
  3. It’s a weaker enabler of bonding than speaking with someone

The first two are pretty self-evident, but I’d say the last item on the list probably is the most important in terms of truly understanding and connecting with another person. If you want to make sure you fully comprehend what a colleague or customer requests, or if you want to make sure your message or instructions are accurately conveyed, a quick phone call (if logistically possible) is a great option.

A phone conversation allows you to interpret (and communicate using) vocal tone, pauses, and other aural cues. You’re connecting with the other person more as team members, business partners, and humans. It’s these connections that give your job network and your career network depth and power. Why? When you talk to people, they get to know you as a real human being. And they will remember you. Think about this: How many emails and texts did you get yesterday, and how many conversations did you have?

Face-to-face communication always is preferable, but not always possible. That’s why the telephone was invented in the first place! But Alexander Graham Bell’s inspiration has been overshadowed in recent years by digital communications technologies, including apps that run off smartphones which barely are used to make calls.

Among those new technologies are teleconferencing platforms, which are a great tool for allowing people in different locations to hear and see each other. While we someday may be at the point where video calls are the norm — which, if anything, will force remote workers to up their personal presentation game — we’re not there yet.

You can’t always predict how technology and culture evolve, but you can almost always count on human nature remaining constant. My point is that your phone and your voice are powerful communications tools that can help you do your current job and position you for a successful career. They are how you can make sure you are heard — and remembered. Don’t hesitate to use them.


  1. Dr. Venkata Eedara says:

    Nice article Chris on the importance of team communication and collaboration at the workplace. I agree with you that whenever possible, face-to-face communication and phone conversations are preferred, and they are more effective than text-based communication.

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