I am on a 12 month internship. I am a bit introverted and English is my second language. My manager told my prof that I am doing fine but I am not good at communication.

I was wondering if you could tell me what does this exactly mean? How can I improve my communication skills? I would really like to turn this internship to my future job, but I know I am a student with no work experience. So this is my first job and I might be clumsy. Any advice that comes from you would be highly appreciated.

  • 17
    Why not ask him/her? Life is just a learning experience and in my experience people are there to help you to learn
    – Ed Heal
    Commented Jun 30, 2019 at 17:42
  • 8
    Just ask your manager on how you can improve your communication skills.
    – Ed Heal
    Commented Jun 30, 2019 at 17:58
  • 6
    So what? Just ask him - your manager.
    – Ed Heal
    Commented Jun 30, 2019 at 18:04
  • 8
    To be a bit more clear, as your manager was the one to make the observation, only your manager is guaranteed to know exactly what he meant. "Not good at communicating" is very broad. To be able to effectively work on this, you need to know more precisely what your manager feels is most urgently in need of improving. It will be difficult to answer this question without that.
    – Ed Grimm
    Commented Jun 30, 2019 at 19:06
  • 10
    Funnily enough, it's a great opportunity to show that you can communicate effectively! Talk to your manager and ask how you can improve.
    – Gamora
    Commented Jul 1, 2019 at 9:17

10 Answers 10


Unfortunately "lack of communication skills" is a broad term. Usually means that you cannot communicate with your peers to effectively perform your duties. Might be related to the fact that English is your second language or could be due to you being introvert or could be they are looking for an excuse to end your internship and are going to use such hardly verifiable reason (doubt that but who knows). Or some sort of combination of the things. The only person that could really tell you what that mean is your boss. Just ask him about that. However try to phrase a question in a way that would not sound like you are upset b/c of such feedback. Phrase it so it would sound like it is something you just learned and would like to overcome it.If your manager is OK person he/she might tell you what exactly this mean and might even suggest on how you can improve your skills.

One small suggestion though on how to overcome some issues with being introvert and get a practice in the language: you might want to put a candy jar on the edge of your desk. People would come around your desk, grab a candy and might talk to you. By engaging in such conversations you might get to know people you work with so you wouldn't be afraid to ask them if something would come up.

  • 13
    As a footnote, being an introvert and "acting" introverted are two different things. Nothing dictates introverts have lacking communication skills.
    – lucasgcb
    Commented Jul 1, 2019 at 13:08

From my empirical experience, what manager-types mean with communication in an IT context:

  • Telling your seniors when you see that something might become a problem, for example when you were given a task to be completed by a certain date, but then you discover that for some reason you cannot finish it by then
  • Telling your manager if something is bothering you so much that it affects your work. For example your browser crashing when trying to run a local version of something your team works on. Having sunlight glare from your screen and no window blinds to block it with.
  • Having regular informal discussions with coworkers. Ie. small talk.
  • If you have business customers assigned to you, having regular email or phone calls with them to keep in touch about issues and doing add-on sales (yes, one of my past developer jobs was like that!)
  • Talking with other teams in your company, especially ones you more or less frequently do work with.

Of course, depending on your field these might be slightly different, but these are quite general.

So what would be "bad communication skills" in relation to the above? I think managers would say:

  • Not telling you have an issue, and then missing a deadline. This is poison for them. Telling that you have an issue is nothing dangerous or unusual, but not telling is.
  • Again, not telling about an issue. Managers like to hear about issues, because for them it is an interesting task they can work on (it's their job!). If your manager's manager hears about an issue that your manager didn't know about, it is very bad news for your manager.
  • Coworkers will eventually start talking like "that person's been here for 2 years but I don't even know his name!" or "I've never heard that person talk?". Eventually your manager will overhear something like that. They don't like it, as I guess it gives an impression you don't like the team, which quickly leads to "doesn't like the job"
  • In the customer case, your non-communication shows directly in your yearly sales, which could be a KPI in your job for pro/demotion.
  • Talking with other teams can give you ideas about the issues they face, which could be something in your team's work that can be changed.
  • 1
    +1 for your comment. For someone with Engish as the second language like AlexanderM and myself, it would take an effort to blend with the system however, that is where equity comes to play. I would suggest asking the manager for areas of improvement and expectations going forward
    – Bernice
    Commented Aug 18, 2019 at 2:02

A story my father told when he was taking an intensive foreign-language course for his job: When he was just starting out people said "you speak so well!" As his skills developed, people said "What? That's wrong!" So, it's good to be at the stage where people give you that sort of advice.

There's a reason lots of job descriptions call for "excellent communications skills." Your good technical work becomes much better when you can explain it to others.

Don't take this advice as a critique of your personality: it is not.

Obviously, ask your supervisor for more details about this. Does he think you need improvement in

  • writing
  • speaking
  • understanding written material
  • understanding spoken material
  • or what?

You're not working in your mother tongue. Do you need improvement in

  • language skills like grammar and vocabulary
  • clarity of expression
  • or what?

How can you learn better skills? Here are some ideas:

  • When you write something for your job (spec? design? defect report? whatever) ask somebody to check it over. Professional writers have editors to do that. You can do it informally, and you'll learn a lot.

  • Look for opportunities to present material to your co-workers. Ask your supervisor about this.

  • In the USA, there's a thing called the Toastmasters Club. Their mission is to help people develop public speaking skills and have fun doing it. Give it a try if you can.

All the best in your career!

  • 2
    To add to this. You can also download apps like grammarly to check your emails and always use ''çheck spelling" before sending an email or document.
    – Bernice
    Commented Aug 18, 2019 at 2:08

Considering that this is your first job, I would embrace the feedback (as they say, feedback is a gift!) and use it as an opportunity to be more aware of your strengths and weaknesses at this very early stage in your career.

As the other answers state, the communication skills feedback could be due to a variety of reasons - 2nd language, manager expectations, written/presentation skills, interpersonal relationships at the workplace, keeping the team updated on progress, etc. I would recommend that you sit down with your manager and openly and genuinely let him/her know that you are seeking to understand in the spirit of being more effective as a growing professional.

You've got a long way to go and this is a great opportunity to hop onto the life long journey of self improvement! Good luck!


tl;dr Feedback isn't feedback unless it's Specific, Measurable, Realistic. These lead in to SMART (Specific Measurable Agreed-upon Realistic Time-based) goals that are actionable. Use this a prompt to talk to your boss, and find out what they want from you.

edit: What to do? Tell them this. You really appreciate feedback, and would like to have them put them in to SMART goals for you to address. Without them, you've got nothing to address. Depending on your relationship with the professor, you can also ask that they push back when given this style of feedback.

"You lack communication skills" is not feedback, it's slander. Just as we close questions for being too broad, or unclear as to what they are asking here, this person is having you chase a ghost. Worse yet, this "feedback" was given directly to your professor, instead of them working with you on this. It's not specific, measurable, or realistic. "Communication skills" are discipline unto its own.

Feedback surrounding such broad topics demand examples and clarity. In this case, if I was the boss's supervisor, I would say something like "Boss guy, I'd like to talk with you about some of the feedback you provided to Elena93. I heard that she was lacking in communication skills. This is concerning to me, and I'd like to know more details surrounding that." Then continue to ask questions and be curious as to why this low quality feedback was provided. Curiosity should be the approach you take with both your professor, and your boss.

It's a shame your professor didn't ask more questions when the boss approached them. They should be interested in protecting their students from this kind of near-useless commentary.

  • 8
    Exactly, but what should Elena93 do? Commented Jul 1, 2019 at 6:15
  • @kevincline Sorry, I thought the last sentence was enough in the tl;dr. I've expanded that now.
    – Malisbad
    Commented Aug 22, 2019 at 21:16

From my experience, it means you're just not communicating ahead of time about what's going on. You don't need to be the most outgoing person, just stick with the facts. Be like an almanac and spit out factual information before they know about it and come to you to ask about it.

For example, if you see a delay in your estimation, bring it up before the deadline. It's impossible to say what it is in your context. Do ask your boss for more clarity. This is a great example of what your boss meant. You didn't understand what the boss meant but instead of asking him directly you simply walked away.


"Poor communication skills" does not mean language difficulties. Poor communication skills means lack of an ability to make smalltalk, chat about non-work-related issues to other workers at work, and show concern for others' personal life.

These are issues that come up for those that do and have always spoken the same language as everyone else. The current trend is for managers to value these things more than actual work qualifications, like understanding how to use the equipment involved.


From my experience, it may mean you may not be "marketing" or selling your or your department's work enough for stakeholders to recognize the value. I am going to use my experience in cybersecurity to illustrate.

There are certain positions that are revenue generating and other positions that are often seen as cost silos, particularly to outsiders who may not understand how that department generates value for the company. The IT security function is a good example of a typical silo. I work in the financial industry (Healthcare insurer), and maintaining proper security is vital to business success as a breach can have significant consequences due to HIPPA and other laws. However unless the value of our work is communicated to "outsiders" in direct revenue generating functions, its merit may not be fully realized (if at all).

Working in the cyber profession, hard technical skills (vulnerability analysis, security risk assessment, pen - testing etc.) are a must, but one must be able to also explain why these activities are important or why investment of resources here is worthwhile. Related skills such as being seen as helpful and understanding of non - technical end users requirements are also extremely useful to have. As cybersecurity is often associated with the "department of no", being able to put on a human face while not compromising one's job duties is important.


I will take a different angle from the other answers here. By saying you are 'not good at communicating' without elaborating on that, your boss might as well have said 'I do not like her' or more politely 'she is not a good culture fit'.

Communication is a two-way concept. If your 'lack of communication skills' here means not regularly providing enough information for them to be in the loop with what you are doing, that is something they could have addressed.

If it means it takes longer than average for the manager to understand something you are trying to convey or vice versa, again, it is something they could have addressed.

If it means you are not verbally active or assertive, which I take to be the case given your 'introverted' self-assessment and how you are emphasizing your inexperience, it is a culture fit issue when it comes to your communication style. You can either try to fit a 'louder' culture more or find a different organization that tolerates a more passive communication style. Neither way is intrinsically superior to the other but the American business culture seems to favor more active communication styles so one with such a style might have an easier time finding organizations that tolerate them.

At the same time there is a decent cost associated with changing your communication style: researching what that entails for you, changing your habits, mental cost of adjusting your habits, time cost of all the feedback and trial and error etc.

So in short, you can either find another org or place to work that has a communication culture that fits you in or change yourself to fit the org culture.


Warning: You might not be happy with this answer, but there is no secret toolbox. Therefore...

Stop acting introvert

Last year I had a training with a very experienced psychologist. Someone from the group asked how he could improve his communication skills as an introvert. The answer was straight forward: You can't! You're introvert because of your behaviour, you have to change your behaviour and then you won't be an introvert anymore.

  • Ask your boss if there is something specific you should change.
  • Communicate your progress proactively to your boss and your team members. It's important for your colleagues to know when work was completed.
  • When you do not understand something while discussing work, do ask questions immediately instead of trying to figure everything out on your own.
  • If you see a problem in the product or service your team is providing, talk to a colleague. Either you misunderstood something or your finding is valuable.
  • Stop fearing that you say something stupid. You will say stupid things, but it's the only way to learn.

If you're already doing it, then continue. Maybe you just don't have enough experience to find the right words at the right time, but it will get better.

  • 6
    @Malisbad: The edit function is for fixing formal issues, not to change the meaning to match with your opinion. Please stop that.
    – Chris
    Commented Jul 1, 2019 at 10:49
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    -1. Your first paragraph is nonsense. I can't help but think this post is along the lines of "Are you sad? Well then just stop being sad!" Introverts can be great communicators. Introverts have different communication than extroverts, but introverts don't all sit in total silence without making eye contact with anyone. Telling someone to just "stop being introverted" is terrible advice.
    – dfundako
    Commented Jul 1, 2019 at 12:02
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    @Borgh Why does someone need to be an extrovert? Extrovert does not mean good communication. I know extroverts that are outgoing, boisterous, hard to understand because they are overbearing, talk waaaaay too much, and don't get their point across. Nothing about introversion or extroversion dictates good communication, just different personality/communication style.
    – dfundako
    Commented Jul 1, 2019 at 12:14
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    I have to comment again on this post. Your first paragraph and advice have nothing to do with the bullet points you listed since all the bullets are totally feasible for an introvert to do, and are relevant to the OP. Also, the psychologist you mention sounds like an idiot and the person who asked the question in your session had a huge disservice done to them. Read the book Quiet by Susan Cain for a great breakdown of introversion.
    – dfundako
    Commented Jul 1, 2019 at 12:31
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    I think you may have a caricature-esque definition of "introvert", maybe change the term or find a fitting synonym for what you mean otherwise this answer is just plain wrong.
    – lucasgcb
    Commented Jul 1, 2019 at 13:14

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