A few weeks ago, we introduced you to our four-part series “Effective C & C”. This series touches on effective communication and cooperation practices to utilize in your child nutrition program, in order to keep operations running smoothly. In the first post of this series, we discussed five of the most important fundamentals of communication. Today, we’ll go back to the basics and discuss a few more essential communication fundamentals.

Be honest; be assertive.

Honesty is truly the best policy. It’s been ingrained in our brains ever since we were children to always tell the truth. Honesty is an important part of communication. If you make a mistake, fess up to it – and do it quickly. The quicker your mistake is addressed, the quicker you and your team can work together to fix it.

You should also be honest in speaking your mind. Be respectful, but don’t sugarcoat your message if you have something you would like to share. If something is bothering you that is easily fixable by your employee, your co-worker or your supervisor, speak up! Or, if you have an example of how a certain strategy has worked for you in the past, share it – even if it’s not the way things are currently done in your program.

Remember not to be a doormat. If someone asks you to do something that you don’t feel comfortable doing, don’t be afraid to say no. You do not have to feel the need to be a people pleaser, especially in the workplace. Remember to be assertive, without abandoning your manners. Remember the “magic word” – please! Instead of saying “you need to” or “you’re going to”, which can come off as bossy, remember to be polite. Try asking “Would you mind?” or “Would you please?”

Steer clear of gossip, and avoid secondhand news.

Even if you work in a high school, you are not presently a high schooler. That means you should cut out the gossip! There is no room for gossip and rumors in the workplace. If you’ve ever seen the movie “Steel Magnolias”, you may remember character Clairee saying “If you don’t have anything nice to say…come sit by me!” Unfortunately, this is a mentality held by lots of adults in the workplace. But gossip can be hurtful, and certainly cuts down on productivity.

Why do people gossip in the first place? A lot of the time, people start rumors because they like to be the center of attention. Others gossip because they are frustrated, upset or jealous of another person. If you routinely gossip in the workplace, your co-workers may begin to know you as “The Gossip.” Whereas, if you don’t participate in gossip, you may be known as “a Stick in the Mud.” At any rate, if someone at work comes to you with gossip, you can fight it off without making an awkward situation. Respond with phrases like “I’m more interested in what you’re doing”, or “Let’s talk about what we’re going to do today.” If the person trying to gossip to you just won’t get the hint that you’re not interested, you may reply with, “Let’s look at it from (person’s name)’s side.”

Secondhand news is another productivity killer and confusing character in the workplace. Have you ever played “The Telephone Game”? The game begins with one player whispering a made-up phrase into the ear of the player next to him or her. This phrase is whispered all the way down the line until it reaches the final player. And the twist is that the whispered phrase may only be spoken once; no repeating! The final player says what he or she heard aloud, and usually, it is quite different than what the original player started with. This game mimics what happens in the workplace many times; secondhand news can many times get misconstrued as it moves down the pipeline. If you’re unsure about some information you hear, especially when it comes to policy or operations, go to the source. Ask the person who told you the information where they first heard it. You can also ask for the information in writing, to be sure that it is correct.

Leave emotions and attitudes at the door.

Sometimes, we get to work after having a terrible morning or weekend. We are running late, our kid is sick, the dog wet the floor, you burnt your toast. But when you walk through the door to start you work for the day, you have to leave that bad day behind you. Stressing out too much about the things we can’t control can affect our productivity and the way we communicate with those we work with. Raging emotions can change our tone, and we can end up lashing out on someone at work who has absolutely nothing to do with what put us in the bad mood. If you’re having a bad day, be extra careful in your communication.

If you’ve seen the children’s movie “Inside Out”, you know that the main character’s brain is commanded by her different emotions, like Anger, Joy and Sadness. When Anger or Sadness took turns piloting the young girl’s brain, things went crazy! But, everything ran smoothly when Joy took command of the wheel. Try your best to let Joy steer your brain as you enter the workplace, and use logic over emotion, as we tend to say things we don’t mean or make rash decisions when we are stressed or upset.

Respect one another’s differences.

In your child nutrition program, you’re probably working with a diverse group – people from different backgrounds, people of different ages, religions races, ethnicities and genders. You should definitely take these differences into consideration when working and communicating with one another. A workplace where everyone feels respected by their colleagues is certainly a productive and positive one.

Remember to steer clear of foul language in the workplace. Stay away from common swear words, and other words that may be hurtful to others, like “gay” or “retarded” when used with a negative connotation. These words can be cruel and distracting to those you work with. Broaden your vocabulary and find other words to use in their place when you are in the workplace.

And there you have it – the fundamentals of communication! Please keep these building blocks in mind when communicating and working with those in your child nutrition program. Remember to check back next week for even more helpful practices in the third installment of this four-part series on effective workplace communication and cooperation.

Read the first, third and fourth parts of this series by following the links.