In my last two performance evaluations, I’ve been told that I need to improve my communication skills, but I haven’t been given many specifics on what I need to do. Can you help me with any general workplace communication pointers?
I encourage you to ask for more specific feedback that defines which communications skills are lacking as well as suggested improvements that you could take immediate action to implement. You might request another brief follow-up meeting with your manager to seek the information as well as to let your manager know that you are taking constructive action to address the concerns.
In the absence of specifics from your evaluating manager, I would suggest that you seek input from your peers and other managers as to how they see you and your communications skills. There are very specific behavioral styles that dictate the way people communicate and receive information, both at work and in their personal lives. Some styles tend to mesh better than others. Gaining an understanding of your style can help you see how others perceive you and how you might adjust your approach when interacting with other styles.
For example, if you are a strong, results-oriented person and you are working primarily with more methodical, detail-oriented individuals, you may be perceived as being abrasive and pushy which is not entirely the case. So, get input from those who know you well and who have observed your communications skills in action. Put it all together to assess how you are coming across and what you need to do to improve.
There are several really good behavioral based assessment tools that I use with clients that are extremely effective in improving workplace communication. See if your organization has access to similar instruments. With the right information and some effort on your part, you can form new and better communication skills and habits.
One more thing – be sure to document the steps that you have taken to improve so that you can present your actions to your manager at your next performance review.