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4 Types of Communication Styles in the Workplace

woman in a business meeting talking about the 4 types of communication styles in the workplace

A way to ensure that the workplace runs as smoothly as possible is to encourage proper communication. And for management, this means understanding everyone’s different communication styles and tendencies.

A person’s communication style is how they talk and send messages to people, whether directly or indirectly. Understanding a person’s communication tendencies is a great way to create a much healthier and more functional work environment.

Today, we’re looking at four of the most common communication styles in the workplace. We’ll also discuss the traits of these styles as well as which communication style is most effective in work settings.

Read on to learn more.

The Importance of Effective Communication in Workplaces

Managers want to make sure that everyone in the workplace is on the same page. This reduces the chances of conflicts and misunderstandings as well as preventing the reduction of output. If a manager or employee isn’t familiar with the different communication styles, it’s much easier for them to take something the wrong way.

This could be in the form of not understanding the task assigned to them or misinterpreting a comment from a coworker, which could lead to conflict. As much as possible, managers should make sure to facilitate healthy and effective communication between all employees. This will help everyone in the workforce to be perfectly synced together.

What are the 4 Types of Communication Styles in the Workplace?

Typically, people fall into one of four categories when it comes to workplace communication. Sometimes, a person’s communication style may be a combination of one or two of the communication styles we’ll mention in a moment, but if you understand the four most common workplace communication styles, it will be much easier to make proper adjustments around each person.

Here are four communication style examples you’re likely to find in the workplace.

1. Passive Communication Style

A passive communicator is more reserved in the way they talk and act around others. These people are more likely to be quiet in group conversations and don’t usually seek other people’s attention. With passive communicators, it can be harder for managers to understand their wants or know when they feel uncomfortable in a situation since they are much less likely to express these needs.

Some of the most common traits of passive communicators include:

  • Not being able to say no.
  • Not making eye contact during conversations.
  • Apologizing frequently.
  • Having poor posture.

If you are dealing with passive communicators, it’s best not to approach them in a group setting. They will feel much more comfortable in one-on-one situations and will have a much easier time answering questions if they are broad as opposed to “yes-or-no” questions.

And if they are taking a while to formulate a reply, don’t worry about it. It’s important to take your time when talking to passive communicators as they will feel very uncomfortable when rushed.

If you yourself are a passive communicator, it may be time to start trying to improve your communication skills. It may take time, but by trying to engage in more conversations and by expressing your needs and opinions more often than normal will be of huge help in becoming a better communicator.

2. Passive Aggressive Communication Style

People with passive-aggressive communication styles at work may give managers and co-workers some trouble. This is because they appear passive on the surface level, but their actions usually don’t match their words. This is because passive-aggressive communicators typically have aggressive motives behind their passive actions.

People who communicate passive-aggressively tend to be very manipulative and can cause a lot of trouble in the workplace. People with this communication style tend to feel that they themselves are being manipulated and need to take control of the situation even if that isn’t the case.

Passive-aggressive communicators may exhibit the following traits:

  • Making quiet comments here and there.
  • Denying accusations aggressively.
  • Giving other people the cold shoulder.
  • Sporting a big smile even when they are evidently unhappy.
  • Give out sarcastic remarks.

It can be hard to work with someone with passive-aggressive behavior. The best way to deal with people like this is to confront them head-on about their negative behavior while also making clear requests that won’t result in a misunderstanding.

And to further promote proper communication, you can also ask for and exchange feedback in one-on-one situations to let them know they are being heard.

If you feel like this is your communication style, it may be best to start communicating your emotions more openly. Finding ways to express yourself and encourage honest communication with others is a great way of getting over this hump.

3. Aggressive Communication Style

Aggressive communicators tend to dominate conversations and express their emotions aggressively. Sometimes, this results in other people in the conversation getting offended, increasing the chances of tension and miscommunication.

There are times when an aggressive communication strategy is necessary to push a team forward and be an effective leader. But if the team responds better to a calmer approach, aggressive communication may intimidate the team, which could have the exact opposite effect.

Traits of aggressive communicators include:

  • Interrupting others.
  • Not respecting personal space.
  • Always maintaining eye contact.
  • Using large and aggressive gestures.

To deal with aggressive communicators, one needs to be calm. However, you still need to assert yourself to make sure they don’t dominate the conversation. It’s also important to maintain a professional tone with these communicators and understand when it’s time to walk away from these conversations.

It can be hard for aggressive communicators to form strong work relationships. So, it may be best for these people to learn about more positive communication techniques and practices. This allows everyone in the conversation to feel much more comfortable sharing thoughts and ideas.

4. Assertive Communication Style

Assertive communicators are highly sought-after in the workplace. This is because this is arguably the most functional and productive communication style. Assertive communicators tend to share their feelings, thoughts, and ideas openly. However, they never take an aggressive approach and are always respectful and polite when they communicate.

Because of this, assertive communicators get to deliver their message clearly without any miscommunications. Assertive communicators are ready for any challenge but are still comfortable with their boundaries and can say no whenever needed.

Some traits of assertive communicators include:

  • Using appropriate gestures to get their point across.
  • Work well with others.
  • Exhibit good posture.
  • Maintain clear eye contact.
  • Express thoughts and feelings in a healthy manner.

Assertive members of a team are very valuable. They are great at leading while also being great collaborators. These are the team members managers can tap into to help them deal with people with other communication styles.

Which Communication Style is Most Effective in the Workplace?

Ideally, team members are encouraged to have an assertive communication style. This is largely considered the most effective communication style for modern workplaces. This is because assertive communicators are never afraid to share their opinion but also know how to communicate their feelings in a polite and effective manner.

How to Become an Assertive Communicator?

Just because a person is currently a passive communicator, that doesn’t mean they can’t become an assertive communicator. Communication skills are learnable, and with enough effort, people can change their communication styles in a positive direction.

Some of the ways people can become more assertive communicators include:

  • Learning and practicing emotional intelligence.
  • Being open to learning about your own communication strengths and weaknesses.
  • Checking out different speech and communication courses.
  • Learning to express your needs with confidence.


Different employees will have different communication styles in the workplace. And while that’s not necessarily a bad thing – when different people collaborate with vastly different styles of communication – that can lead to misunderstanding and even conflict.

Though there are many different types of communicators – the most effective communicators are assertive communicators. This is because these individuals know how to confidently and politely express their needs, emotions, and desires.

They are great team members as well as team leaders. And if you’re looking for ways to facilitate better communication between team members, it may be time to dig deep into the different styles of communication in the workplace and try your best to adapt to the styles of communication your workforce may have.

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