Communication in the workplace: defining the conversations of supervisors

Sharon Newnam, Natassia Goode

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Communications plays a central role in promoting the health and wellbeing of workers. Although much literature has shown the positive benefits of safety communication in the workplace, research has yet to explore the nature of these communication practices within supervisor–worker relationships. This study overcomes this gap in the literature through objectively monitoring communication within the daily working lives of work-group supervisors in one organization. Aims: The aims of the research were to: (a)categorize communication in the workplace into three categories, namely task-related communication, relationship-related communication, and safety-related communication; and (b)explore the frequency of these dialogs. Method: We periodically recorded brief snippets of ambient (acoustic)sounds in supervisors' workplace environment by using an Electronically Activated Recorder (EAR). The EAR was run on an Apple iPod, with an application downloaded for free on iTunes (i.e., iEAR). The EAR was programmed to record for 30 s every three minutes for eight working hours a day of a five-day working week. Results: A total of 12.38 h of acoustic sounds from five workgroup supervisors was useable for coding. The results found examples of task-related (productivity, efficiency, workflow, and human resources)communication, as well as relationship-related (greetings, personal life discussions, workplace relations), and safety-related communication. We also found that the majority of the communication recorded was task-related communication compared with relationship-related and safety-related communication. Practical applications: This research provides preliminary insights into communication practices in the workplace and avenues for future research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-23
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Safety Research
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2019


  • Communication
  • Health promotion
  • Occupational health and safety
  • Safety climate
  • Safety culture

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