Nonviolent Communication in the Workplace

Microsoft  CEO Satya Nadella bought all the members of his senior leadership team a copy of the book “Nonviolent Communication” in 2014 when he took over the company.”

– Business Insider by Mark Abadi Oct 7, 2018

“The One Book That Transformed Microsoft’s Culture from Cutthroat to Creative”


Nonviolent Communication in the workplace has benefits for employers, employees, as well as for customers and the community.

However, Nonviolent Communication (NVC) in the workplace also has limitations which are important to understand. One of the constraints is limited time because of work-related timeframes and deadlines. Another is due to the fact that people don’t go to work to become emotionally close with their co-workers.

So what we are looking for when we apply NVC in a workplace setting is enough connection so that people can best attend to the reason and purpose for being there: getting the work done.

Nonviolent Communication in the workplace naturally helps you and your colleagues get along well, because it teaches you how to be real and honest in a way that you are more likely to be heard, and how to listen with empathy & compassionate understanding.

Building trust is a natural outcome of applying NVC. This increased level of trust translates into more effective teamwork.

By applying Nonviolent Communication in the workplace you will have fewer of the co-worker conflicts that so often lead to work of inferior quality, lower team morale, and high staff turnover.

What is the importance of Communication in the Workplace?

Asking what the importance is of communication in the workplace might be best answered when we look at what happens when it is missing.

When a manager or supervisor gives unclear instructions or expectations, it can create stress, frustration, and confusion. As a result, their employees deliver the wrong thing, or they deliver it at the wrong time or in the wrong way. But more importantly, trust is impacted and people begin to resent their boss or supervisor.

What to do instead? We would encourage leaders to take time up-front to get clear first! Then deliver the message. And hopefully the organizational culture is one that makes it safe for employees to ask clarifying questions or to express concerns or objections.

When an employee doesn’t speak up or ask clarifying questions at a crucial moment, it could be for a number of reasons. It could be that they are afraid and conflict-avoidant, and they need to work on their courage, confidence, and self-expression. Sometimes the organizational culture makes it unsafe to speak up because people fear retaliation. Regardless, when the culture is not conducive to honesty or when a team member holds back expressing crucial communication, the organization, the project, and the team all miss out on their contribution.

When co-workers have a misunderstanding — which can happen frequently — how do they handle it? Do they they have the skills to transform confrontation or separation into a constructive conversation?

Without prioritizing high-level communication in the workplace, bosses, owners, supervisors, and boards are depriving their projects of the possibility of a high-functioning team.

When owners, bosses, and supervisors DO prioritize the importance of communication in the workplace they can bring their employees the training they need so that they can prevent and resolve conflicts and work collaboratively in an effective way.

Communication is the key to getting things done — especially if you value clarity, integrity, accountability, efficiency, effectiveness, and enjoyable and productive teamwork.

The Link Between Communication and Productivity in the Workplace

As noted above, there is a clear link between communication and productivity in the workplace.

Clear communication gives us coherent expectations, deadlines, and requirements — and is the foundation for the trust necessary for a collaborative workplace.

And clear communication gives us effective teamwork, because harmonious teams get better work done.

Clear communication is the key to productivity because without it, time, energy, and effort are wasted following unclear instructions or re-doing work because the expectations weren’t clear initially.

Furthermore, there is the question of how to motivate others.

When we use extrinsic incentives — whether gifts, prizes, or praise — to motivate others, we find that it only works in the short run. This is in part because the person being motivated might be disconnected from their intrinsic reasons or motivations for doing the work. As a result, their motivation, attendance, and focus all suffer.

So the link between communication and productivity in the workplace also involves how we motivate others, and whether we can inspire them to connect to their intrinsic reasons for why they are here, and why the work matters.

When you are connected to the meaning and purpose behind your work — and when you get along with the people you work with — being productive can happen almost effortlessly. Clear communication — from leadership and among co-workers — provides the most effective foundation for productivity.

Use NVC to Handle Difficult Conversations at Work

You can use NVC to handle difficult conversations at work.

Imagine having the confidence and skills to get through difficult conversations, so that you could reach the place where there is more connection and mutual understanding! Now imagine being able to this consistently and with relative ease! NVC gives you the tools — and with practice you develop skillfulness with those tools.

Difficult conversations happen. Sometimes they come to us, sometimes we find ourselves in the middle of them, and sometimes we are in a position in which we need to say something but we are scared. Feeling afraid is understandable. Just remember that courage is not the lack of fear; it is called courage precisely because there is fear.

NVC helps you handle difficult conversations because of both the underlying consciousness, and because of the specific nature of NVC’s tools.

The consciousness of NVC emphasizes co-created, mutually satisfying outcomes, which are most easily arrived at when we feel connected. So we prioritize a high quality of connection, and co-create strategies from that place. This is quite a consciousness shift for many people!

The tools of NVC helps us be extremely conscious of the kinds of thinking and language that get in the way of a high quality of connection, and show us how to be clear, stand in our own power, and be compassionate.

For example, by using a language of universal needs everyone can relate to, rather than judgments, people are more able to hear and understand each other — even when emotions are running high. As mutual understanding deepens and common ground is identified, shared solutions naturally emerge. This is one of the ways NVC aids our ability to get through difficult conversations at work in a satisfying way.

Use NVC to Resolve Conflict Between Employees

You can use NVC to resolve conflict between employees — whether you mediate it yourself, bring in an outside mediator, or have them trained in the skills to do it for themselves.

The important thing is to shift the mindset from moving away from the conflict to moving toward it. We need to shift from resisting, avoiding, wanting to fix a conflict, to instead supporting conflict. We want to use NVC to bring a conflict to a healthy resolution that preserves the integrity of all involved parties.

There are many dangers to being conflict avoidant. These include never learning the skills for supporting conflict constructively, and never actually resolving conflicts.

One of the ways we use NVC to resolve conflicts between employees is to help everyone involved hear each other in order to create mutual understanding and identify common ground. We translate any judgments into Universal Human Needs, and we work to clarify what the underlying needs are.

When you can distill the essence of a conflict to the Universal Human Needs involved, then people can relate to each other, see each other’s humanity, and solutions begin to be co-created.

Improve Workplace Culture and Communication

How do you improve workplace culture and communication?

Changing individual behaviors is one thing — changing a culture is another.

The issue is having a clarity of value and norms that are consistently upheld at the top. It’s simply not sustainable for workers to uphold the highest of standards if they do not have the support of bosses or management, who themselves actually set the standard.

This also means that leadership is communicating both the vision, so that people feel part of something, as well as clear expectations, so that people know where they stand and what to do.

Have you ever noticed how some people dread going to work, and they feel terrible after having been at work?

In many if not most cases, this is due to the toxicity of the interpersonal environment. We see time and again that when people feel disconnected from others they don’t enjoy their presence and collaboration does not come so easily. When people do feel connected — which is exactly what NVC excels at — they enjoy each other’s company more, they more easily prevent and resolve misunderstandings and conflicts, and they work better as a team.

Nonviolent Communication can go a long way toward improving workplace culture and communication — to the extent that it is an organization-wide endeavor and the leadership supports it.

One of the indicators that the culture in a workplace needs improvement is the extent to which you see those with the structural power making unilateral decisions or imposing solutions on others without consultation as to impact, concerns, or objections.

One of the best ways to improve workplace culture and communication is to shift from a paradigm of power-over to one of power-with. You cannot have true collaboration with solutions being imposed in a power-over way. When people don’t have a say as to the things that impact their lives and their work, in the long run they will resent it or find a different place to work.

By having congruent leadership, supporting healthy workplace relationships, and shifting paradigms from power-over to power-with, you can use NVC to improve workplace culture and communication.

Dr. Marshall Rosenberg on NVC in the Workplace

When you listen to or read Dr. Marshall Rosenberg on NVC in the workplace, one thing is clear: Nonviolent Communication skills help us improve all relationships, personal and professional. After all, we’re dealing with human beings with Universal Human Needs — and therefore the skills transfer across contexts.

Dr. Rosenberg’s personal experience was that the workplace was often filled with expectations and demands. Rather than be a victim and tell himself he had “no choice,” Dr. Rosenberg did a special exercise:

He took a sheet of paper and drew a line down the middle, from top to bottom. He titled the left-hand column “Things I have to do” and made a list. (For many of us, things on this list might include items like I have to go to school, I have to go to work, I have to make dinner, I have to pick up the kids, etc.) On the right-hand column, across from each item, he would write: “I choose ______ … because _____” — in order to assume responsibility for his choices.

One thing Dr. Rosenberg profoundly disliked about his psychotherapy practice was writing clinical reports. But he had lived with a sense of duty and obligation and did them anyway. When he did this exercise, “I have to write clinical reports” became “I choose to write clinical reports because….” — and he had a profound realization. He connected to the reason why he chose to do them: it was for the money, and that was no longer enough. That was when he quit his psychotherapy practice and began driving a taxi — while he continued developing the process we now know as NVC.

If he had not connected to his deeper motivation and personal power, he might have continued to begrudgingly write clinical reports and continue his psychotherapy practice — and perhaps Nonviolent Communication would never have been developed and disseminated!

Puddledancer Press Books on Effective Communication in the Workplace

PuddleDancer Press is the foremost proponent and publisher of books on effective communication and conflict resolution in the workplace.

NVC has shown time and again that human beings are capable of profound creativity, contribution, and collaboration.

NVC in the workplace predictably enhances a harmonious interpersonal workplace culture.

With workplace NVC co-workers prevent and resolve misunderstandings and conflicts, they build trust, and they form highly effective teams.

Because of the nature of NVC itself, when we apply it in the workplace it gives us outcomes that meet a greater number of needs and are more durable.

Our books on effective communication in the workplace can help you:

  • Create mutual understanding without coercion,
  • Offer compassionate understanding to others,
  • Know when and how to ask for that same understanding for yourself,
  • Create exceptional personal and professional relationships,
  • Prevent and resolve misunderstandings and conflicts, and
  • Speak your truth in a clear, powerful way more likely to lead to harmony than conflict.

Whether you are a long-time student — or are brand new to NVC — PuddleDancer Press has the educational resources, including the books on effective workplace communication, to help you and your staff grow your emotional intelligence, interpersonal skills, and communication prowess.

Check out our catalog of books on effective communication in the workplace… and give yourself the gift of Compassionate Communication!

Topic written by Alan Seid, a Certified Trainer, on behalf of PuddleDancer Press for use on

NVC Workplace Web Resources

Click here for Marshall Rosenberg Workplace Articles
Click here for Marshall Rosenberg Workplace Videos
Click here for Nonviolent Communication Workplace Articles
Click here for Nonviolent Communication Workplace Videos

There is a wealth of information on Nonviolent Communication – in articles and videos. Of course we endorse all of Marshall’s sharing’s, however, there are many transcripts and videos created by others. Due to limited resources we do not verify the full accuracy of any particular video or articles created by others, even though there is plenty of wonderful and educational information on the web.