Creating a Healthy
Communication Climate
in the Workplace
Presented by:
Katherine E. Oleson
Communication Studies Department
Bellevue College
Communication Climate
How can you individually & collectively
 support
 encourage
 participate in/contribute to
…a healthy communication climate in the
workplace?
Today
 Reflect upon your goals, responsibilities and current
workplace communication climate
 Identify impact of interactions on workplace
communication climate
 Examine supportive and defensive language
 Consider language use & its impact on workplace
communication climate
Reflection
What are your primary workplace
responsibilities?
 Tasks to complete, regulations to follow
 Relationships to maintain
Let’s consider relationships…
 relationships are constantly changing
 relationships are affected by culture
 relationships require maintenance
 relationships require commitment
Communication Climate
 how you feel about others in a relationship
Using a weather metaphor, how would you
describe the communication climate in your
workplace?
Communication Climate
Think to yourself…
Would you like the climate you have described
to change? In what specific way(s)?
What would you like to continue/enhance?
Why?
Communication Climate
“Research confirms that positive communication
climates lead to increased job satisfaction.”
(Adler, 2010)
1. praise & encouragement
- feel valued when work is recognized
2. open communication
- opportunities to give & get feedback,
make suggestions, voice concerns
Communication Climate
• People can change the communication climates in
their relationships.
• Shaped by degree to which we believe we are
valued by others in a relationship.
• Intentional or unintentional messages.
• “It isn’t what we communicate about that shapes a
relational climate as much as how we speak and act
toward one another.” (Adler, 2010)
Communication Climate:
Respect & Value
 Content & relational messages
 Disconfirming & confirming messages

Disconfirming – lack of regard/disrespect


Ignoring, interrupting, impersonal response, aggressive attacks
Confirming messages – value/respect

Recognition, acknowledgement, endorsement
Confirming messages
 convey value
recognition (say hello, return messages, eye contact)
acknowledgment (listening, asking questions,
asking for opinions)
endorsement (compliment, agree with another’s
ideas or find ideas important, “I can see why you...”,
nodding head)
Application – Value & Respect
 What do you do to set up a confirming
climate in your workplace? How do you
communicate value and respect? Be specific.
 How satisfied are you with your current
approach?
 What do you find challenging? Why?
Communication climate
 all messages & interactions contribute to the
overall climate of a relationship
 constantly collectively & individually
establishing relationships
Challenging Situations
 What happens if we perceive disconfirming
messages & feel disrespected?
 May use defensive language & other behaviors to
protect self/face
 Long-term & short-term impact
 May use non-defensive responses
Preventing Defensiveness In Others
 show respect
 lessen level of threat & defensiveness
 face-honoring relational messages
 perspective taking
Defensive & supportive language – Gibb Categories
Defensive
Supportive
Evaluation
Description
Control
Problem-orientation
Strategy (Manipulation)
Spontaneity (Assertiveness)
Neutrality (Indifference)
Empathy
Superiority
Equality
Certainty
Provisionalism
Adler, 2010
Gibb Categories
Defensive
Evaluation
Supportive
Description
“You don’t know what “I don’t understand
you’re talking about.” why you chose that
approach.”
Gibb Categories
Defensive
Supportive
Control
Problem-orientation
“There’s only one way to
handle this problem…”
“It looks like we have a
problem. Let’s work out a
solution we can both live
with.”
“What you need to do
is…”
“Let’s brainstorm some
ideas to address your
concern.”
Gibb Categories
Defensive
Supportive
Strategy
(Manipulation)
Spontaneity
(Assertiveness)
“What are you doing
right now?”
“We have several boxes
that need to be moved
into storage. Can you give
me a hand?”
Gibb Categories
Defensive
Neutrality
(Indifference)
Supportive
Empathy
“Sometimes things
just don’t work out.
That’s the way it
goes.”
“I know you were
relying on having
coverage available on
Thursday.”
Gibb Categories
Defensive
Supportive
Superiority
Equality
“You don’t know what
you’re talking about.”
“I see it a different way.”
“No, that’s not the right
way to do it!”
“If you want, I can share
with you a way that has
worked for me.”
Gibb Categories
Defensive
Supportive
Certainty
Provisionalism
“That will never work!”
“I think you’ll run into
problems with that
approach.”
“You don’t know what
you’re talking about!”
“I’ve never heard
anything like that
before. Where did you
hear it?”
Defensive & supportive language
Defensive
Supportive
Evaluation
Description
Control
Problem-orientation
Strategy (Manipulation)
Spontaneity (Assertiveness)
Neutrality (Indifference)
Empathy
Superiority
Equality
Certainty
Provisionalism
Adler, 2010
Reflection questions
Which supportive behavior(s) do you already use on
a regular basis?
Which do you think you are most likely to implement
in your interactions? How could doing so be
beneficial?
Which factors come into play that impact this type of
language use?
Scenarios – How might you react?
 “I don’t understand what you are saying, and, I don’t have
time to listen to your explanation.”
 “Don’t you even understand the difference between these
two systems?!”
 “Katherine sure seems to take a lot of sick-leave.”
 “I don’t have time for this right now.”
 “I was able to learn the system without any training, so
you’ll just need to do the same.”
Scenarios
 Identify a situation that you have recently
experienced.
 What defensive or supportive language did
you use? The other party?
 What can you learn from that experience &
these tools? Be specific.
Criticism & Concerns
 When someone criticizes you, how do you
react? Why?
 What options do you have when responding
to criticism/concern brought to your
attention?
Responding non-defensively to criticism
seek more information
–
–
–
–
–
–
ask for specifics
guess about specifics
paraphrase the speaker’s ideas
ask what the critic wants
ask about the consequences of your behavior
ask what else is wrong
agree with the critic
–
–
agree with the facts
agree with the critic’s perception
Role playing
Co-worker: “What you’re doing isn’t working. What
you need to do is tell Sharon that you need more
training.”
Response: How might you respond non-defensively?
What’s next?
How can you individually & collectively
 support
 encourage
 participate in/contribute to
…a healthy communication climate in the
workplace?
Questions &/or comments?
Katherine E. Oleson
Communication Studies Department
[email protected]
Reference
Adler, Proctor & Towne. Looking Out, Looking In, 13th
Edition (Thompson Wadsworth, 2010).
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October 17, 2013 - Healthy Communications Climate