The realities and times of talking in an office
Being thrown into a new working environment is a difficult thing. If you’ve rarely or never encountered corporate structures or have had the experience of studying it as part of your language studies (if you studied that), you’d be surprised to learn that in an office, workshop, or really any environment with a close circle of like-minded individuals working on or towards common goals have their own little language they speak. This is the same in an office with terms and jargon that mean radically different things when spoken in different contexts.
This came as a shock to me when I first encountered it as words like ‘red tape’, ‘quotas’, and ‘risk management’ had some resemblance to what I was expecting them to mean and what they meant before I joined up, but often were and still are significantly different from what I was expecting them to be. I felt I needed help, and luckily there always is.
I took up this course called Corporate Communication training and honestly I didn’t know what to expect going in. It was either a crash course on how to talk to people in a corporate setting, or how to effectively communicate in the corporate setting and key events such as meetings, seminars, symposiums, and so on. I did get something out of it for my trouble and I’ll try to explain what it was exactly.
First of all the thing about context is that it can change the intended meaning of a word depending on the wheres, the whens, and the whos present or absent during the utterance. It’s a complicated thing that the trainer said a lingustic student would take a fair amount of time to learn, let alone explain, but the gist of it was that as a basis for communicating in a corporate setting you had to know that words and their meanings change depending on who you’re with and what you’re doing.
Then came the process of actually learning the words and what they mean either through dry sessions of reading them out or through exercises with emphasised their immediate use. It was a hit and miss time for me as I’d still get my terms confused and unfamiliar words still get to me at times. I did however meet most of it to a satisfactory degree which I think means I’m good enough for the task.
What I didn’t expect however was the idea of having to adjust my style of communication in a corporate setting to make it appropriate for things like meetings, job interviews, and so on. It can seem artificial and sometimes it is actually canned which slightly disappointed me, but what did impress me is how the methodology makes it harder to distinguish what you’re actually communicating versus how you feel about communicating. It’s a delicate balance of wording, phrasing, and intonation, sort of like a play but in real life. It’s interesting to say the least.
Then comes the surprisingly interesting challenge of translating what you learned into various media formats. It’s bizarre as it adds layers and layers of complication to what you’d imagine would be a simple task. There are different ways to write a corporate email for your boss, a business partner, coworkers, the Human resources department, and others. They have their own dos and don’ts, various faux pas that you can end up committing that can be detrimental to your communication. Phones are different as well since you don’t have the eye contact element to gauge your response and have to entirely rely upon words and tone as heard through an auditory medium. And don’t even get me started with other media.
The course came and went and I somehow managed to pass. Along the way I was still working to a reduced capacity at my old place and my employer noticed a few differences with me and my communiques as the course progressed.
Notably they noticed that my communiques were shorter, more concise, and to the point. It didn’t require as much thought or effort to work out what I was trying to say compared to my previous work. It was a good start and helped improve my ability to talk with others in the office.
Secondly I was sort of ‘in the know’ when I came back full time as previously oblique or obtuse statements being made to my coworkers, myself, and my bosses. I kinda have to sound like the tagline of a certain comic book in saying that with great power comes great responsibility, and since knowledge is power and my knowledge consists of words, I have to be careful on when and where to use those words in the context of the office which coincidentally was the same thing I was taught to do in the first place anyway.
My overall productivity jumped by 30-40% on average according to my bosses which made them quite happy with my progress. They noted that the jump was because I was working with people who were more willing to work with me, and had the information they actually needed to proceed with whatever work they needed to be done at that time and place to perform their tasks. Cohesion improved and everything followed and everyone was happy.
Overall I think my experience with corporate communication training helped me improve myself in my work. I may change jobs and positions within the next few years and find myself adrift in the sea of unemployment that most of us actually find ourselves in in this hustle and hurry world of ours, but even when I’m in that state I will have some assurances that once I do get back into the saddle I’ll be back and better than ever; capable of speaking a language that is obscured and converging disparate and differing things into a single line or paragraph that makes sense to my bosses. Until then I’ll stay where I am and continue my endless march into the future with the assurance that I actually learned something while I was there.