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Communication at Work

Updated: Jan 29, 2020

Why is good communication important?

Communication is a really big part of any job that you undertake.  Communicating well can make your job a lot easier and will do a lot to help you create a good relationship with your employer.

When working, you may come across tensions or conflicts.  A lot of these actually come down to problems with communication.  This can either be because of misunderstandings, or a lack of communication altogether.  Improving your communication can help in situations of conflict or can even prevent the conflict from happening at all.  There are many different ways to communicate and it might take some getting used to when starting a new job but as you settle in, understanding the way your employer communicates will become easier.

General communication:

A good way to start thinking about communication is by looking at the active side of it.  You can actively communicate by

  • asking:“what would you like me to do?”; “what can I do better next time?”),

  • apologising: (“I’m sorry ma’am/sir, I made a mistake”), and

  • informing (“excuse me ma’am/sir, I… [inform]”). 

Communication is also about listening. Respectful, active listening is more than just hearing what someone says, it means that you try your best to understand what the other person is telling you, encouraging him/her to communicate with you.

Some tips for good general communication:

  • Be polite

  • Be pleasant - smile, look engaged, ask if you can be of assistance

  • Seek constructive outcomes - be willing to adapt, be open to learning something new

Handling difficult situations:

There will be times where you have to face some difficult situations.  This might mean that you have to have a conversation with your employer that you are not feeling very comfortable about but it is important to remember that talking about something is a constructive way of dealing with a problem, rather than letting the problem go without fixing it.

Here is an example of a situation where this might be the case:

Situation: Your employer wants you to work on your day-off. You are legally entitled to one day-off per week and employers are required to give you a consecutive 24hr rest period. 

What would you do?

  • Stay calm when going to talk to your employer.  If you are feeling very emotional, it can be a good idea to take some deep breaths and wait until you are able to talk calmly, without getting angry or emotional

  • Make sure to have this conversation at a good time for the employer (e.g “Excuse me ma’am, I’d like to talk to you about something.  Please let me know when you have the time”)

What would say to your employer?

  • "Sir/Ma’am, I am sorry but I cannot work on my day off. I need my rest and I am entitled to my rest day."

  • Remember to stay calm and keep a professional attitude. Be polite and firmly share your concerns.

What if your employer continues to insist and perhaps even gets angry?


  • “Sir/Ma’am, I cannot follow your instructions in this situation. The Labor Department requires that domestic workers have 24 hours rest day per week. I also need this time off to take care of my personal things and so that I can continue to keep performing well during the days that I am working.”

  • Explain the situation clearly, and keep it short. Focus on the professional side of the issue. 

If you are able to maintain professionalism and a calm attitude when having difficult conversations, your employer is more likely to respond in the same way and be receptive to you. 

Some recommendations for these conversations are:

  • Explain the situation clearly, keep it short and try not to over-explain the problem

  • Focus on the professional side of the issue - try to explain how the problem may be affecting your work

  • It can also be helpful to try and provide a solution, not just point out the problem.  This will show your employer that you are trying to fix what is wrong and having a positive attitude.

  • Try to remember that most of the time, the employer doesn’t even know that something is wrong.  If you explain the problem to them, there is a good chance they will be happy to do what they can to fix it

Receiving Feedback and Knowing Your Rights:

You might encounter a situation in which your employer is not satisfied with your work or is angry about something you have done.  If you have done something wrong, it is important to apologise but remember that you have rights and that you are allowed to stand up for yourself.  Here is an example of a situation where this might be the case:

Situation: Your employer has said that you may use your phone during the day for work but not for personal reasons.  A friend called them earlier today and said they saw you at the playground on your phone while their 2-year-old son was running around.  The friend felt like she had to watch the child to ensure he was safe. She even took a picture of you using the phone while the child was playing.  Your employer is furious and asks you to turn over your phone immediately.

What would you say to your employer?

  • “I made a mistake, I will not do it again...”

  • Accept that you have made a mistake and show that you understand your employer’s point of view: You can see how your mistake can cause frustration and worry over their child’s safety. Be genuine and receptive.

But  what if your employer continues to ask for your phone?

  • “No sir.  This is my personal belonging.  If you would like me to stop using it during work hours, that is fine and I will do that.” 

  • While you can understand your mistake and need to improve from it, taking your phone away completely is unfair. In this moment, you should stand up for yourself in a calm and professional manner.

In a situation like this, it is really important to calmly apologise and mean it, but you must also be aware that your phone is a personal belonging and your employer does not have the right to take it away from you.  If you feel like something is unfair, you can stand up for yourself!

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