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New research reveals crisis of communication confidence among UK workers

  • Data from The University of Law reveals millions struggle with workplace communication
  • 97% of 25-34-year-olds fear being judged by colleagues on their communication
  • Over-apologising, being indirect and using too many words all identified as common habits

More than eight out of ten people (84%) fear colleagues will judge them on how they communicate at work according to new findings from The University of Law (ULaw).

Those living in Norwich are most likely to fear judgement by the peers at work (89.6%), while a staggering 97% of those aged 25-34-years-old said the same, revealing a huge crisis of confidence among UK workers.

While more than half of the research respondents (53.3%) said they feel a demand to be more authoritative while at work, 59% said being direct with others makes them feel awkward.

When it comes to communication habits that can hinder workplace communications, those found to be most common are using too many words to make a point (35%), over-apologising (25%) and being too indirect (24%).

It was Bristolians who were found to be most likely to admit to over-apologising (37%), while Londoners were most guilty of using too many words to make a point (41%). When it comes to being too indirect or using too many filler words such as “um”, Mancunians took the top spot.

The top 10 UK cities most worried about being judged by the way they communicate in the workplace are:

  1. Norwich - 89.6%
  2. London - 87.7%
  3. Edinburgh - 86.4%
  4. Manchester - 85.9%
  5. Bristol - 85.7%
  6. Glasgow - 84.8%
  7. Nottingham - 83.7%
  8. Leeds - 83.3%
  9. Cardiff 81.4%
  10. Liverpool - 81.8%

It appears that being direct when asking for what they want in the workplace is something a lot of workers struggle with. More than half (58%) said this is something that makes them feel uncomfortable, which interestingly increases to 75% among those aged 25-34-years-old.

Considering the findings, experts from ULaw’s law, business and employability faculties have offered their advice to empower those who struggle with workplace communication.

ULaw’s advice on the top workplace communication mishaps:

  • Using too many words to make a point

If you find your emails are spanning several paragraphs that’s usually a sure sign it may be time for a call or meeting. Our brains can only take in so much written information at once, so with several emails landing in inboxes every day the golden rule really is to keep it short and sweet where possible.

Try to cut out any superfluous words or phrases, remembering that shorter sentences are more likely to capture your recipient’s attention.

  • Over-apologising

There are of course times at work when an apology is due. However, it’s unlikely that anyone is expecting an apology in almost every email. Before hitting send try and consider what it is you’re apologising for. Can you instead swap out the word “sorry” for “thank you”? For example, “thank you for your patience” instead of “sorry for the delay”.

  • Being indirect

The best way to go about getting something you need is to simply ask for it directly. Providing you mind your manners, there is never anything wrong with this. Being indirect can easily take away from your authority and can even make your communication seem unclear or confusing.

Be confident in your ability and your desired outcome but remember you can’t control the reactions of others. 

 

Commenting on the findings and offering his advice, John Watkins, Director of Employability at ULaw, said: “The working world presents unique challenges in many forms and often at the heart of them is communication. It can be easy to overthink how you communicate with others when you’re at work. Am I being too abrupt? Do I really need that extra sentence? How can I best get what I want in this situation? Indeed, many people can spend hours agonising over one email.

“The good news is, it’s relatively simple to adjust your communication style without making any drastic changes or changing who you are as a person – and you will likely see some positive outcomes quite quickly.

“The single biggest tip to offer is to put yourself in the shoes of the people you communicate with – consider what works best for them as recipients of your message rather than what you prefer as the communicator.”

To find out more about employability support from The University of Law, visit: https://www.law.ac.uk/employability/

Sources:

Research carried out with 2,000 working UK adults by TLF in March 2023