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good communications in the workplaceGood communication in the workplace is vital for strengthening relationships and alleviating misunderstandings and offense.

I observed good communications firsthand recently in a most unlikely place: the boarding gate at Southwest Airlines in Tulsa. Although I’m a loyal American Airlines traveler, I opted this time for Southwest to get a direct flight to Phoenix.

So, what does that have to do with good communication in the workplace, you may be thinking?

Well, for anyone familiar with Southwest, you know that passengers are assigned boarding groups and numbers versus seat assignments. As passengers assume their places in the boarding lines, the courteous communications among fellow travelers is inspiring. “Oh, you have B57? Oh, I’m B58, here, you go ahead of me.”

I hear similar friendly discourses simultaneously involving boarding numbers ahead and behind me. No bad attitudes. No harsh words. Everyone just communicates effectively and courteously as they form the queue.

So, I’m thinking: Wow! This is a vital lesson in communication for the workplace. So, after settling into my seat in the back of the plane (As a Southwest newbie, I didn’t know how to get in the “A” group to board sooner!…I jotted down four ways the “Southwest” boarding system transfers into good communication in the workplace.

  1. First, people respond positively to courteous words. Everyone likes a verbal “pat on the shoulder.” Those courteous words are in face-to-face conversations: “Here, let me get that door for you.” In a meeting: “Beth, thank you for sharing that perspective; I hadn’t thought about it from that angle.” They can be in an email: “Dear Bill, thanks for the great job in the presentation today. “ They can be on the phone: “Matt, your positive attitude with that upset client today really made a difference in their decision to stay with us.”

  2. Has a ripple effect. Everyone in our boarding queue was polite and it rippled into other lines that were forming. However, a majority of people disapprove swearing, negative words and gossip. So, at work, try to choose words that encourage, inspire and uplift as much as possible. And, even simply saying, “please,” thank you “and “I’m sorry” go a long way in the workplace.

  3. Helps build strong teams. Good communication helps everyone on the team stay in the loop with information, know what action is needed by each team member and what steps to take by certain deadlines. Also, few jobs are solo acts, so, be sure to acknowledge the team with words of appreciation as often as possible.

  4. Boosts better working relationships. Employees who communicate well with each other generally feel more satisfaction at work. Supervisors who listen well and respond to employees’ needs and concerns with respectful and understanding words enhance work relationships. This is especially true in our diverse workplaces when communicating with those from other cultures and generations.

So, thank you, Southwest Airlines, for this visual and verbal reminder of good communication. It’s a choice each of us make, of course. But, if we apply good communication skills in the workplace, we are helping build office environments with strong and courteous relationships that everyone appreciates. Now, let’s see…how do I get into the “A” boarding group next time?

You may also like to read Communications Etiquette: Responding to Office Emails, Texts and Phone Calls

Rachel Wagner is a licensed business etiquette expert, speaker and trainer. You may contact her at 918.970.4400 for additional information on her business etiquette training services or to speak at your event.