Resources > Blog > Internal Communications

Different communication styles in the workplace

Are you interested to learn more about the different communication styles that exist in the workplace? Perhaps you’ve seen a few in action, check out our guide.

Different communication styles in the workplace hero image
Clélie Protopapas image

Written by Clélie Protopapas

1 Mar, 2023  –  6 mins read

In any relationship, communication is key and it’s no different for our relationships at work. Whether it’s between existing teammates, managers and new starters, or executives around the boardroom table, communication is essential for effective decision-making and the successful, smooth running of your company.

As with most human attributes, communication styles vary across individuals. By understanding different communication styles and why people communicate the way they do, you can better connect, collaborate and ultimately achieve more with your workforce.

Keen to find out more? Let’s jump in and take a look at the different communication styles in the workplace and how you can best adapt to and take advantage of these.

What is a communication style?

Just as each of us has our own personality traits and fashion preferences, we also exhibit a range of styles in the ways that we prefer to communicate with others. Our communication styles cover both our verbal and non-verbal communication, including how we speak, write, gesture, act and react.

How many communication styles are there?

There is a broad range of different communication models and theories out there, but as a general rule, you’ll find four main communication styles:

  • Passive
  • Aggressive
  • Passive-aggressive
  • Assertive

What are the 4 types of communication styles?

Each communication style has its own verbal and non-verbal behavioural characteristics. Let’s take a closer look at how each is demonstrated in a workplace setting.


Passive communicators generally prioritise “keeping the peace”. They don’t tend to speak up or share their thoughts and opinions often, preferring to listen to and support others’ views and ideas instead.

They tend to avoid confrontation, which makes them easy to get along with, but this means they can also struggle with boundaries and saying no, too. Those with a passive communication style tend to avoid eye contact, are softly spoken and might fidget or use protective body language like crossing their arms.


Aggressive communicators are usually outwardly very confident in expressing their views and opinions and tend to maintain good eye contact. Although their directness can be helpful in communicating exactly what they think, an aggressive communication style can also be perceived as rude or confrontational and may come at the expense of others’ feelings.

Aggressive communicators can railroad conversations, interject into discussions and typically blame others for their mistakes.


As the name suggests, passive-aggressive communicators possess certain characteristics of both passive and aggressive communication styles.

Much like passive communicators, they tend not to speak up and share their views often, but they will tend to communicate how they feel in more subtle, indirect ways, such as muttering under their breath, tutting or eye-rolling.

You’ll find that passive-aggressive communicators tend to have conflicting verbal and non-verbal behaviours, so they might say they are happy about something but slump their shoulders dejectedly at the same time.


Assertive communicators are often thought of as the most effective communicators. They know how to clearly communicate what they think or want without undermining or attacking others.

Those with an assertive communication style tend to have relaxed, calm facial expressions and use open hand gestures. They tend to be good at conflict resolution, finding win-win solutions that take their own s and others’ views into account.

Never miss an article

We’ll deliver our latest content straight to your inbox

How to deal with different communication styles

To help you avoid miscommunication, improve conflict resolution, and achieve better overall interactions with your team, it’s important to adapt your approach to accommodate different communication styles. What works for passive communicators, won’t necessarily – and often doesn’t – work with aggressive communicators.

Here are some effective ways to handle different styles of communication.


Passive communicators often feel anxious, stressed or unable to confidently express themselves. When engaging with those who have a passive communication style it’s often best to be supportive, patient and empathetic.

Consider ways to invite views in a more comfortable setting, either one-to-one or in writing after they’ve had time to mull things over. Avoid the temptation to fill silences, and ask open questions so that passive communicators have time to answer and elaborate on their responses.


People might use an aggressive communication style when they feel unsupported or defensive, or because they think it’s the only way to get what they want. Being clear with aggressive communicators on their areas of responsibility and what you do and don’t expect from their input can help to set clearer boundaries and restrict potential misunderstandings or railroading.

Using a calm, assertive style and staying focused on work tasks can also help avoid emotional and aggressive conversations. Remember, if the situation becomes too demanding or becomes negative, it’s OK to walk away and return to the conversation when the situation has calmed down.


Often people use a passive-aggressive communication style when they fear the group won’t accept their opinions and they feel uneasy with being direct. Investing in team building and encouraging stronger interpersonal relationships in the team can help passive-aggressive communicators feel more comfortable and give them the confidence, to be honest about what they think and feel.

If you witness negative passive-aggressive behaviour such as eye-rolling or sighing, raise it with the person directly in a one-to-one conversation to understand what’s going on and encourage a more honest exchange.


As effective communicators, you won’t need to adapt your approach, and assertive communicators won’t require support like colleagues with other communication styles. The best thing you can do is to empower assertive communicators by stepping back, giving them space to interact and even stepping into leadership roles.

As first-rate communicators and mediators, they’ll also be your biggest asset in helping to deal with passive, aggressive and passive-aggressive communicators.

Whichever communication style or styles you need to adapt to, it’s important to consider what channels you use. People process and prefer to communicate in many different ways, so alongside more standard emails or staff meetings, consider how other tools, like surveys, virtual chat rooms or internal communication videos could help you better engage with your team.

The importance of adapting communication

Adapting your approach doesn’t just help you create more effective internal comms, it reaps plenty of other rewards too, like these.

  • Maximising the impact of your communications. When you adapt to an individual’s or team’s communication style your message is more likely to land well and be responded to positively.
  • More effective employer branding and communication that takes account of and engages different communication styles.
  • An adaptive culture that’s effective in the workplace. By adapting your style, you can lead by example and encourage others to take the time to get to know and adapt to teammates’ communication styles too.


As in just about all aspects of life, good communication is vital. By taking the time to get to know your team, and understand which of the four communication styles they use and why you’ll be armed with the information you need to adapt and improve your workplace interactions.

It’s not only important to consider what you communicate, but how you communicate it too. All of us prefer and respond differently to a range of communication channels, so mix it up, broaden your approach, and use interactive tools like Seenit’s User-Generated Video solution to engage effectively with a range of people and their varying communication styles in the workplace.

Recommended for you

View all