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"Tone of Voice" in Management-to-Employee Communications

by Thomas Metcalf, studioD

The modern office or workplace provides you with many ways to communicate with your employees. Email, instant messages and Skype are all products of the Internet and have supplemented the time-honored office memo. None offers the benefits of face-to-face contact, where you can fully express the sentiments you feel and garner the full feedback from your employees.

The Importance of Tone

Whether you are handing out praise or exercising discipline, how you speak is as important as what you say. According to the frequently-cited work by Dr. Albert Mehrabian of UCLA, the actual words you use account for only seven percent of the message you deliver. Thirty-eight percent of your message is from the tone of your voice and the speaking style you use, while the remaining 55 percent is your body language. The next time you address your employees, consider how you speak to be sure they get the right message.

Meeting Face-to-Face

Face-to-face communication is important when dealing with your employees if you are sharing matters of consequence. How you assert yourself when resolving conflicts, giving a performance review or taking disciplinary action against an employee will give you credibility. In two-way communication with an employee, you can also gauge the success of the conversation by how your employee responds to you. Just as your tone of speech conveys a message to him, so, too, will his tone reflect his emotion more accurately than his words.

Vocal Aspects

Your accent, pace of speaking, pitch of your voice and inflections are all aspects of the tone of your speech. Think about how you sound when you are angry. The pitch of your voice rises and you probably speak more rapidly. These changes occur subconsciously, but if you wish to control your tone, you must be aware of these and other changes in your manner of speaking. There are regional and global differences in the way people communicate that have little to do with emotion, but if you wish to convey the correct message, you need to consider the culture of the other party to the conversation. Many people, on hearing a recording of their voices, are surprised at what they hear.

Speaking with Authority

If you want to project more authority while you speak, pay attention to your posture. Deep breathing is from the diaphragm, not the chest, so you should stand or sit erectly while you speak in order to project your voice well. Be conscious of lowering your voice at the end of a statement. A raised voice sounds tentative and unsure. Remember that your physical stance can affect the tone of your voice. A smile will change the tone, which is why you should remind your sales reps to smile when talking to customers over the phone. Even using arm gestures will affect your vocal tone, giving it more energy, especially if you are tired.

About the Author

Thomas Metcalf has worked as an economist, stockbroker and technology salesman. A writer since 1997, he has written a monthly column for "Life Association News," authored several books and contributed to national publications such as the History Channel's "HISTORY Magazine." Metcalf holds a master's degree in economics from Tufts University.

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