I don’t think it’s possible to interview a disgruntled, demotivated or otherwise upset employee at any organization in the United States without hearing the following sentiment: We have poor communication here.

If you’ve ever experienced what it’s like to suffer through poor communication from a leader, you now that many things can occur: mistakes, bottlenecks, disappointment and even costly business mishaps. These things all make things difficult on a personal level and unfortunately, not enough leaders understand when we’re getting in our own way.

So what can we do if we’re not in the position to address top-down leadership and say “hey, your communication skills suck!”? We can set an example and make change around us. No matter whether you sit in a cubicle or a corner office, you can be the change you wish to see and influence those above, below and beside you on the org chart. I spoke with Author and professor of management at Goldey-Beacom College, Dr. Patricia Buhler about her new book entitled: Up, Down and Sideways:High-Impact Verbal Communication for HR Professionals. Note: It’s not just for HR professionals but anyone looking to improve communication skills in the workplace.

Joey: Can you tell us a little bit about your book Up, Down and Sideways: High-Impact Verbal Communication for HR Professionals?


Patricia: We wrote Up, Down, and Sideways as a resource with work-related examples to help HR professionals communicate more powerfully in order to achieve more success in their jobs and add more value to their organizations.  The title reflects the need to remember that communication flows in all three directions – and we must address them all with somewhat different nuances to effectively build relationships.


Joey: How important of a skill is high-impact verbal communication for an HR professional who wants influence in his or her organization?


Patricia: Communication is critical if we want to positively influence our organizations.  It lies at the center of most of the other competencies required for success – and across most jobs.  For example, in HR we can’t be effective strategic business partners supporting line managers if we can’t communicate effectively with them.  And communication is one of the top skills cited in surveys for career success.


Joey: In your experience, what are some of the barriers that stand in the way of learning how to give high-impact communication from the HR seat in an organization?


Patricia: Perhaps the greatest barrier is the perception of those outside HR that we simply don’t understand them and they don’t “get” us.    If we fail to understand the impact of upward communication and fail to speak the language of business, we play into perpetuating these perceptions.  Ironically, the two work in tandem for those sitting in the HR seat.  Upward communication tends to be more filtered – and sometimes is completely absent for lack of an understanding of just how to effectively deliver communication to superiors.   And of course, the all-important language of business (including numbers) is critical to get the attention of others and make a business case for our position.


Joey: Is your book for just HR leaders? Would you recommend entry-level HR professionals and students to read your book? Why?


Patricia: While the scenarios provided to demonstrate key points are in the HR arena, this book holds wide application for everyone across all functional areas.  The book is aligned with SHRM’s competencies for success, but these are also very valid for many professionals across a wide variety of functions.  For instance, tips to providing constructive criticism would be helpful for most people in today’s workforce – whether as a manager supervising others or as a member of a team.  The examples and practical advice draw on elements from all HR levels, making it appropriate for entry-level HR professionals.  In addition, it is definitely a resource for HR students to be better prepared and help them understand how to hit the ground running in the workforce.

Joey: What did you learn about high-impact communication through the course of writing your book that might not be common knowledge in our profession?


Patricia: While I’ve always believed in the importance of effective communication, I was surprised at the cost incurred for organizations that engage in ineffective communication.  Taking a page from our own advice, we built a business case (with numbers) for why we should care about effective communication.  Knowing things intuitively is simply not as impactful as citing numbers.  And the numbers are huge.  One estimate suggested an average loss of $62.4 million in companies as a result of ineffective communication.  Even more surprising – companies with effective communication experience almost 50% higher total returns to shareholders.  And it’s not just large companies that are impacted!

About the Authors

Patricia M. Buhler, DBA, MBA, SPHR, is a professor of management at Goldey-Beacom College and is the owner of Buhler Business Consultants. Pat is active in Delaware’s chapter of the Society for Human Resource Management. Her previous books include Perfecting the Art of Management: A Comprehensive Guide to Organizational Leadership (2010), The Employee Satisfaction Revolution: Understanding and Unleashing the Power of a Satisfied Workforce (2009), Human Resource Management: All the Information You Need to Manage Your Staff and Meet Your Business Objectives (2002), and Teach Yourself Management Skills in 24 Hours (2001).

Joel D. Worden, Ph.D., is an associate professor of English and communication at Goldey-Beacom College. Joel consults with businesses and individuals to increase the effectiveness of their verbal and written communication.

up down and sideways

Link to purchase the book through SHRM



Link to purchase the book through Amazon