How do you solve problems?

Some companies have a particular method of problem solving, some only use informal ways of solving problems. Whatever method is used, good communication is the important factor.

All kinds of problems happen at work. They are usually about the production processes or about how people are interacting. In the past, people thought the problem would go away if you ignored it! They thought ‘she’ll be right’. Today workplaces take a more active approach. If something’s wrong, it needs fixing. This problem solving approach can make the workplace a better and safer environment. It can even save lives.

Why is it important for people to communicate well in the workplace?

Everyone would agree that work is a better place if everyone gets on well. The way people communicate with each other is often what makes the difference between a ‘good’ and ‘bad’ workplace.  Some companies have policies and codes about acceptable behaviour and language at work.

Breaking the accepted rules of behaviour could result in:

  • injury or even death
  • an unpleasant workplace atmosphere
  • losing your job.

As well as the company’s policies and rules, there are also laws about the way people treat each other. They include workplace behaviour. In Australia it is illegal to treat people differently because of their race, ethnicity, religion or gender.

Many companies have developed:

  • anti discrimination policies
  • sexual harassment policies
  • equal opportunity or affirmative action policies.

What can you do to communicate well with people in your work area?

Policies and laws exist to protect people and are useful, but it takes much more than policies and laws to make interaction in the workplace positive. Everyone in a company needs to know what they can do to ensure a good working environment.

Understanding different ways of behaving and communicating

When we are children we learn customs and rules about the way we speak and things like body language, such as winking, smiling and slapping your mates on the back.

People from different backgrounds have different ways of behaving and communicating. For example:

  • men and women
  • city and country people
  • abattoir workers and politicians
  • people from different language backgrounds and countries.

Some people don’t eat pork, some people will only eat halal meat and some people don’t eat meat at all. This depends on what they have learnt in their families and communities.

Our own ways of doing things become built-in and ‘automatic’, so when we come across people who communicate or do things in a different way, we can sometimes think of them as ‘strange’. But if we are aware of, and respect, these differences, there will be fewer misunderstandings and a better workplace atmosphere.

Using communication to get on with others

How do people in your work area like to be treated? Are they people who like to joke and chat a lot? Different people prefer different ways of relating to each other. You need to be sensitive to how people like to be treated.

This team worked well together because:

  • they knew each person had a different way of working and communicating
  • everyone could have a say
  • they saw that each person could give something to the group
  • they all had a common goal – to do their job well and safely.


Groups are an important part of the workplace. Some of the groups you might belong to are:

  • a work team
  • department
  • union
  • social club
  • problem solving team
  • group who always sits at the corner table in the lunch room

When you communicate as part of a group you need to:

  • understand that people have different ways of communicating
  • listen to others without interruption
  • take turns in asking questions, giving opinions
  • share problems and solutions.