South-Western - Management  
Talk is Not Cheap
Topic Communication
Key Words Informal communication, learning
InfoTrac Reference A120252807
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News Story

Since about 70-90 percent of a manager's day is spent communicating, the value of communicating well cannot be overestimated. When used effectively, conversation between managers and their employees can facilitate learning and innovation.

A 2003 study of a Canadian organization found that employees and managers agreed that learning can result from simple conversations, if the circumstances are right.

The study identified three characteristics that facilitate learning in the workplace:

  1. openness
  2. informality
  3. questioning
The study also identified four characteristics that impede learning in the workplace:
  1. one-way communication
  2. exercising personal power
  3. one-sided relationships
  4. negative communication climate
Learning partnerships, in which employees are guided, supported, and constructively challenged in a comfortable and informal environment emerged as a positive concept for learning. In this partnership, employees ask questions and share ideas and collaboratively come to deeper understanding or meaning with their managers, rather than receiving one-sided direction.

Other best practices for workplace learning conversations include:
  1. the use of questioning
  2. building partnerships
  3. shared experiences as a case study
  4. establishing a clear and common purpose for conversation
  5. making time to talk


What are some of the characteristics of managers who encourage learning through conversation in the workplace?


Have you ever worked with someone who created a good environment for sharing and learning? What did that person do to create that environment?


What are some characteristics that hinder learning through conversation in the workplace?


What are some best practices for creating workplace learning conversations?

Source "Talk is Not Cheap," Canadian Manager, Summer 2004, p. 20.
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