Communication Between Supervisor & Staff

Clear communication between supervisors and staff members keeps everyone moving forward.
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If your supervisor isn't communicating with you regularly, you might start to wonder why. Maybe you're not valued enough to warrant any attention -- and maybe it's just a matter of time before you're let go. Lack of communication from supervisors can be as damaging to motivation and productivity as poor communication. Staff members need to know what is expected of them, how well they're performing, and what is happening in the organization that could affect their efforts. But supervisors need to hear from staff members, too. They need to know how activities are progressing and what obstacles might be getting in the way of success.

Meaningful Communication

    There is a direct link between high-performing companies and meaningful communication that removes ambiguity. Leaders provide clear goals and direction. Staff members report accurate results that drive the best possible decisions. Any problems or questions that come up along the path to results are fed back up to leaders, who then communicate any changes or clarifications to the direction already provided. When staff members are allowed to participate in decision-making processes and voice ideas, they gain a vested interest in the outcome, which increases their level of commitment to success and ownership of results.

Communication Tools

    Supervisor's and staff members alike should never rely on memos, emails or instant messaging to communicate. Direct, face-to-face meetings and discussions fill in the blanks, minimizing the likelihood of misinterpreting the message. Facial expressions and body language add non-verbal cues that signal attitude and understanding. A staff member might say she understands a supervisor's direction, but her expression could signal doubt or apprehension. Supervisors should communicate regularly through staff meetings, in addition to taking opportunities for coaching and mentoring. Staff members should take advantage of meetings and open-door policies not only to keep the supervisor informed, but also to ask questions.

Timeliness and Tone

    Supervisors should provide timely feedback to staff members when things have gone well and when improvement is needed -- but negative feedback does not have to be negative in tone. Constructive criticism helps staff members to consider how to do better next time. Destructive criticism is demotivating. Providing value-adding feedback builds trust and supports team building. Staff members always know where they stand. Immediate positive feedback motivates employees to continue to do well. Immediate negative feedback that is not destructive in tone prevents employees from repeating errors or encourages them to find better ways to proceed. Waiting until it's time for an annual performance appraisal provides no positive value.


    Whether communications are peer-to-peer, supervisor-to-staff member, or staff member-to-supervisor, they should always be professional. From a language standpoint, professionalism means never swearing, avoiding slang terms, and trying to be grammatically correct enough to sound educated without going overboard -- you don't need to sound like an English professor. When it comes to non-verbal cues, remember that posture matters. Keep that back straight and hold your head high to show confidence. Avoid fidgeting and work to maintain eye contact. After all, effective communication is as much about how a message is being sent as it is about what the message contains.

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