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Ask Linda: Communication Matters

Effectively communicating with staff members is a critical skill for laboratory managers.

by Lab Manager
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Dear Linda, 

I have only recently moved into the lab manager role and I am still getting my feet wet. My team of 12 are all highly qualified and committed individuals. However, due to either cultural, personality, or generational differences, I have hit a few stumbling blocks when it comes to communication. Either I am not making myself clear or some individuals aren’t comfortable with the back-andforth of information exchange. As a result, I worry that this communication breakdown might lead to further misunderstandings and bad morale. Any advice for this newbie? 

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Dear Leonard,

Effectively communicating with staff members is a critical skill for laboratory managers. In particular, staff members have to feel that the manager is providing valid information, is not withholding information, and is available to listen. Supervisors need to understand how communication breaks down if they expect to fix it. Different people require different tactics. Below are a few general rules for improving your communication skills:

  • Pay attention to body language, especially yours.
  • Think before speaking. While thinking out loud is okay for brainstorming sessions, it can monopolize a discussion and be quite distracting.
  • Train yourself to listen deeply and clarify what you are hearing as you go along.
  • Never assume everyone will understand what you mean and why you are saying what you are saying.
  • When you do lab evaluations, include the lab members’ communication [ability]— with you, with peers, with other staff—as an important item to assess.
  • If lab members fall short on their communications, step in and mentor them.
  • When you talk to employees, always be honest with them.
  • Don’t rely on electronic communications, except to back up what you’ve told people in person.
  • Precision and clarity are essential to both oral and written communication.

Good communication will not happen accidentally, but it is a skill that can be learned. Good luck.


For more information, see "Effectively Communication with Your Staff" at 

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