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Workplace communication

Key points

  • All jobs require you to have some form of communication with other people. 

  • Even if you work independently, it’s still likely that you will need to report to a manager, or interact with clients.

  • Keep in mind that you’re still in a professional environment and don't overshare personal information, gossip or complain about the workplace or the people you work with. 


Small Talk

Small talk can be a tricky habit to learn – many of us would rather get to the point, or talk about something more interesting. However, lots of people appreciate small talk as a way of demonstrating friendliness in a conversation. This includes things like:

  • asking people how they are (even if they don’t respond with lots of details) 

  • asking questions back to people who have asked you a question (where applicable).

Small talk is most relevant for making a good first impression with strangers, such as customers and people you meet at work. If your job requires you to speak to new people regularly, you might like to develop a small talk script, or a list of conversational tips so you know what to say.

Communicating with clients

Most jobs have specific rules about how to talk to clients or customers. These will vary depending on your job. When training for a job, the topic of customer service or communication at that workplace should be covered in detail, but ask your supervisor if anything is not clear to you - there is no such thing as a silly question.

Communicating with colleagues

In most jobs, you will have colleagues working alongside you. In addition to discussing work-related matters, they are likely to engage in general chat. 

General workplace chat can be challenging to navigate because there aren’t many rules about how much to talk, or what to talk about. You might also need to consider the appropriate time for this type of conversation. For example, people will usually be more open to chatting when they’re on a break, rather than in the middle of a work task.

Try to come up with some light-hearted conversation openers, such as:

  • Did you do anything fun on the weekend?

  • How is your day going?

  • Are you watching or reading anything interesting at the moment?

Once you get to know each of your colleagues a little better, you might feel comfortable asking more specific questions. For instance, if I know my co-worker has a dog, I may wish to discuss that topic further (and tell them about my own dog too).

Sometimes it can be difficult not to overshare! Keep in mind that you’re still in a professional environment – it’s not acceptable to gossip about other people, or to complain about your boss or your job to others at the workplace. If you have any legitimate concerns in the workplace, you should address them with your supervisor in private to see if you can get your concerns addressed.


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